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DEGREE OF S<^c^jdL^ a\ CXj^±^_ jJ^t^^ 


Instructor in Charge 



Table of Contents 


rvmtrter I The Condition of the South 

Chapter ^ ^ e ul0S e of the Civil War 1 

Chapter II Reconstruction Under the Con- 

gres clonal Policy 

Chapter III The Causes of the Ku Klux Movement.. 19 


Chapter IV Precursors oi the Elan 

Chapter V The First uen 

Cha-oter 71 The Sarly Character and Spread of : 
the Movement 

Chapter VII The Transformation of Function md _ 

Chapter VIII The Klan at Its Zenith: Methods and 

Chapter IX Decline and Demise of the Klan 83 

Chapter X Continuance of the Movement After the 

Chapter XI The Klan 1 8 Place in History 100 


Bibliography ' 



The Condition of' the South at the Close of the Civil War. 

It is the summer ox 1865. The fires of fratricidal war, 
blazing fiercely and incessantly for four long and awful years, 
have at length burned themselves out, and only a bed of smoulder- 
ing, blood-red embers remains to mark the spot of the terrible 
conflagration. For the first time in half a decade, the clang of 
the anvil and the sharpening of the ploughshare is heard above 
the roar of the cannon and the tread of marching troops. The 
musket has been exchanged for a plough, and the arts of peace 
have replaced the feverish activities of war. But all is not yet 
quiet and settled. To one who understands their flickerings 
and rapid alternations of light and shadow, the dying embers 
reveal a remarkable story of the sad and deplorable condition of 
the South at this time. They tell a tale of violence and corrupt- 
ion, of unrest and misunderstanding, of blighted hopes and bitter 
disappointments, of economic ruin and humiliating poverty, of 
insuperable tasks and perplexing problems, of ruined homes and 
abject misery, of stifled resentment and profound sorrow. 

The South was beaten, thoroughly and hopelessly whipped. 
Of that there could be no doubt. And the great majority of the 

thinking people of the South realized it, nnd accepted the situa- 
tion.' 1 ' .Lee had surendered to Grant at Appomattox only a snort 
time before, in April, 1865. This was soon followed by the cap- 
itulation of Johnston to General Sherman, and the dispersion 
of the smaller bodies of Confederate troops. Thus by the summer 
of 1865 practically all the rebel troops, with the exception of a 
few isolated bands of guerrillas, had laid down their arms. All 
attempts at organized resistance to the government had vanished. 
The backbone of the reoellion was broken, and broken very effect- 
ually, from a military viewpoint. The Southerners were forced into 
a full and complete realization of this fact, and so were con- 
strained to acquiesce in the decree of Providence. They accepted 
the terms of defeat in regard to the abolition of slavery and the 
destruction of the right of secession; though they did not, quite 
naturally, at once give up a firm belief in the justice and 
correctness of their principles, but felt that a too-powerful 
conqueror had prevented tnera from putting those principles into 
practice. In spite of a mixed feeling of animosity, resentment, 
and humiliation on the part of many people, the South realized 
that its only hope lay in accepting as fully and as completely as 
possible the terms and consequences of defeat, and so prepared, 
rather gloomily, to make the best of a situation that could not be 

The leaders, especially, saw clearly that a complete 
acquiescence in the new condition of affairs was by far the most 

1. Carl Schurz, Speeches, Correspondence, Pol* .tapers, 
Vol. I, p. 284; Fleming, Doc. Hist, of Reconstruction, 
I, 51-66. 

2. Rhodes, hist, of U. S., v, 182. 

3. Schurz, Speeches, Correspondence, Pol. Papers, I, 284-303. 

feasible course to pursue. On May 29, 186b t President Johnson 
issued a proclamat ion of amnesty to all those who had participated 
in the rebellion, ( with important exceptions in the case3 
of nigh officers of the Confederacy or of the united States "before 

the war ), who took the following oath of allegiance: "I, , 

do solemnly swear (or affirm), in presence of Almighty God, that I 
will henceforth faithfully support, protect, and defend the Con- 
stitution of the united States and the union of States thereunder, 
Bad that I will in like manner abide by and faithfully support all 
laws and proclamations which have been made during the existing 
rebellion with reierence to the emancipation of slaves. So help 
me God."- 1 - General Lee, in a series of letters written soon after- 
wards, advised all those who were eligible to take this oath and 


to accept the amnesty offered. General Wade Hampton said in a 
letter to President Johnson, "The South accepts the situation. 
She intends -co abide by the laws of tne land honestly; to fulfill 
her obligations faithfully, and to keep her word sacredly." And 
other leaders similarly expressed themselves in favor of a complete 
acquiescence in the new conditions. 

But such conditions! The whole situation was one calculat- 
ed vo cause even the stoutest heart to quake with fear and fore- 
boding. The economic position of the south, in particular, was 
appalling. The destruction of property during the war had been 
ruthless. The country in the Shenandoah Valley and the region in 
the wake of Sherman's march to the sea had been reduced to an 
aosolute desert; and many other sections of the South were little 

1. Richardson, Messages and Papers, VI, 510. 

2. Fleming, Doc. Hist, of Becon., I, 63. 
5. Ibid, I, 66. 


bettcr. An inhabitant of the Valley of Virginia thus describes the 
conditions there: "We had no cattle, hogs, sheep, or horses, or 
anything else. The fences were nil gone; the barns were all burned; 
a great many of the private dwellings were burned; chimneys stand- 
ing without houses, and houses standing without roof, or door, or 
window; bridges all destroyed, roads bedly cut up; a most desolate 
state of affairs." 1 Many of the slave-holders had enjoyed magnifi- 
cent incomes before the war; but most of their wealth was represent- 
ed by the slaves, and a large portion of the plantation was often 
mortg'-^ed. And now that their slaves were liberated, and much, 
if not all, of their property destroyed, they found themselves not 
only literally penniless, but heavily in debt. Railroad property 
had been particularly subject to federal ravages, and all the 
means of communication were seriously impaired. One well-equipped 
road, which had boasted of 49 locomotives, 57 passenger cars, and 
550 freight cars just before the war, iouna itself in 1865 with 1 
locomotive, 2 passenger cars, and 4 freight cars.' 3 'f-he Confederate 
currency, which was the only form of money possessed by the South- 
erners, was worse than wortniess. j^ven the crops 7/ere a disappoint- 
ment; for "it is estimated th_t only one-h;ulf a crop will be made 
this season. "4 

Destitution, want, and poverty reigned supreme. A de- 
scription of conditions in the summer of 1865 reads lilie a tale 
of a famine in India. Absolutely everything, in many cases, was 
gone. An official of the i'reedmens' Bureau in ...lab a says in a 

1. Fleming, Doc. hist, of Recon.,I, 11. 

2. Ibid , I, 16. 

3. Ibid , I, 18. 

4. Ibid , I, 23. 

report: "Women and children and "broken down men came 50 and 40 
miles to "beg a little iood. Some are without homes of any de- 
scription. On one road leading to Talladega 1 visited four 
families who were living in the woods, with no shelter but pine 
boughs." 1 The federal Government, through the jj'reedmens 1 Bureau, 
issued large quantities of provisions to these destitute people. 
It was said that tnere were 35,000 men, women, and children in the 
counties of Georgia, immediately surrounding Atlanta, who were 

dependent upon the Government ior preservation by death from 

hunger. A singular commentary on the irony of war is furnished 
by the record of one proud and wealthy old South Carolina family 
whose members ?/ere exterminated during the conflict, with the 
single exception of one old man, who was reduced to the miserable 
expedient of peddling tea by the pound and molasses by the quart, 
on a corner of the old homestead, to the former slaves of the 
family, in order to earn a livelihood. Even the best families 
subsisted mostly on corn-bread, and were often forced to eat a 
coarse cattle fodder known as "cow-peas."- Gone were the silks and 
satins of the ante-bellum days, and the women ox the South appeared 
uniformly in the coarsest of home-spun dresses. The living con- 
ditions are thus described by a general in the federal Army: 
"Everything has been mended, and generally in the rudest style. 
Window- glass has given way to thin boards, furniture is marred 
and broken. Dishes are cemented in various styles, and half of the 
pitchers have tin handles. L complete set of croci:ery is never 

1. Fleming, Doc. Hist, of Recon., I, 20. 

2. Ibid , I, 22. 
5. Ibid^ I, 17. 

seen.... A set of iorks with whole tines is a curiosity. CIocks 
ond watches have all worn out; pins, needles, and thread are 
very scarce, Few have pocket knives. At the t shies you will iind 
neither tea, coffee, sugar, nor spices of any kind, riven candles 
have been replaced, in some cases, by a cup of grease, in which a 
piece of cloth is plunged for a wick." 1 

And as if these miseries were not enough, the people were 
subjected to graft and frauds of all kinds, mostly by northern 
agents. The cotton confiscation frauds were especially notorious. 
General Janby issued a military order reauiring all persons who 
had sold cotton to the Confederate states to surrender it to the 
federal authorities, under pain of having their property confiscat- 
ed if they failed to do so. Immediately the country was filled 
with impostors who clai.ed to be Treasury agents, and who, often 
under the protection of a detachment of Federal soldiers, seised 

large quantities of cotton which were never turned over to the 

government. The agents of the Free aniens' Bureau, in some cases, 
were also guilty of peculation and fraud in connection with the 
supplies advanced by the Government. In addition, many sections 
of the country were still infested by bands of guerrillas, com- 
posed mostly of thieves and robbers who maintained a semblance of 
order and discipline within their own ranks. 

And besides all these economic distractions, there was the 
negro problem, which loomed large in the foreground. Quite 
naturally, the first taste of freedom led to excesses. There was 

much vagrancy and refusal to work, and a certain .-mount of violex-oe 

1. Fleming, Doc. Hist, of Recon. ,1, 11. 

2. Ibid, I, p. 25. 


There was an idea prevalent amongst the negroes that the government 
would divide the land of their former owners among them, giving 
each family "forty acres and a mule." 1 Many of them left the 
plantations, aid wandered about the country in h^nds of twenty 
or fifty. The whites were afraid of a negro uprising, and the 
various state legislatures passed the so-called Black Codes, oal- 
eulated to restrain the negroes and keep them in what the whites 
regarded as their proper level. 2 Many of the negroes, he?; ever, 
simply remained quietly on their plantations, „nd continued with 
their work as usual. Many others, disappointed with the wander- 
ings of freedom, returned to their plantations and resumed work. 
Thus, on August 15, 1865, nine hundred negroes assembled near 
Kobile passed a resolution declaring that their present status of 
freedom was worse than the old condition, and voted to return to 
their masters and to resume work. On the whole, it does not 
appear that the former sir ve-holders felt any particular hatred 
Lgainst the "blacks, hut simply wished to help them to he as quiet 
and as contented as possible without changing their social 

Such, then, were the conditions which the returning Con- 
federate soldier faced upon returning to his home in the early 
summer of 1865. Henry W. Grady, in his oration, "The He?/ South", 
describes the situation admirabley and eloquently in the following 
words: "He (the Confederate soldier) finds his house in ruins, 
his farm devastated, his slaves free, his stock killed, his barns 

X. Fleming, Doc. Hist, of Recon,, I, 350. 

2. Sinclair, Aftermath of Slavery, 62-68. 

3. Fleming, Doc. Hist, of Recon.,1, 90. 


empty, his trade destroyed, his money worthless; his social 
system, feudal in its magnificence, swept away; his people with- 
out lav/ or leg,:l st. tus, his comrades elain, und the "burdens 
of others heavy on his shoulders. Crushed "by defect, his very 
traditions are gone; without money, credit, employment, material 
or training; and bes:i:es all this, confronted with the gravest 
problem that ever met human intelligence, — the est ablishing of 
a status for the vast body of his liberated slaves." 1 

1. H. W. Grady, The Hew South, in Modern iiloquence, VIII, 585. 


Reconstruction Under the Congressi oriel Policy 

Beyond doubt a large share of the "blame and discredit for 
the unfortunate conditions existing in the South during the recon- 
struction period must he laid at the door of the Congressional 
policy of reconstruction. Hot that under any other plan, even 
th t of Lincoln, everything would have progressed smoothly and 
happily, for there were discordant elements in the situation which 
could not have "been reconciled without a certain amount of strife 
and disorder; "but in all probability conditions v/ould not have he- 
come so acute, end the wounds of the war would have been healed 
much sooner, under a less harsh and more sympathetic system of 
governmental supervision. In opposition to the mild, sympathetic 
policy begun by Lincoln and continued as far as possible by his 
successor, ^resident Johnson, who believed that the Southern States 
had never really been out of the Union, and who therefore desired 
to see them regain their ante-bellum status as quickly and as 
quietly as possible, 1 the Congressional leaders, headed by 
Theddeus Stevens, became convinced that the defeated Confederate 
States were insidiously attempting to reenslave the negroes in 
everything except the mere name, that they had deliberately broken 
off all relations with the Federal Government and v/ere now in a 
position strictly analogous to a number of conquered foreign 
provinces, that the power of readmitting them to their former 
position rested in Congress alone, and that before such readmit tance 
LicCarthy, Lincoln's Plan of Reconstruction, 190ff • 


could t&ke place strict find elaborate guarantees of their loyalty 
to the Union and of their future good "behavior must be required. 1 
Therefore, these leaders procured the passage of the three so- 
called Reconstruction Acts. The first of these, passed on March 
2, 1867, divided the South into a number of military districts, 
each district to be presided over by a military officer with 
supreme authority. It also provided that the rebel states were 
to obtain representation in Congress only sfter having formed a 
constitution in conformity with that of the United States, to be 
framed by a convention of delegates composed of male citizens 
twenty-one years of age or older, of all races, colors, and 
previous conditions, except such as were disfranchised by partici- 
pation in the rebellion, end to be approved by Congress. The 
State Legislatures elected under such a constitution must also 


approve the fourteenth amendment. The second act, of March 25, 
1867, provided that the registration and voting outlined in the 
first act should be entirely under the direction of the military 
governor of each district, and laid down certain stringent rules 
of eligibility, to the effect that no person who had ever held any 
legislative, executive, or judicial office in any State of the 
Union, and had subsequently engaged in insurrection, should be 
eligible either to register or to vote. The third act, of July 
19, 1867, declared the existing state governments in the Southern 
States to be illegal, and gave the military commanders power to 
remove any state officer if they saw fit. The registration boards 

1. Hart, American Hist. Told by Contemporaries, IV, 471-475. 

2. MacD.nald, Select Statutes of U. S. History, 1861-1898,158. 

3. i.-cPherson, Political Manual for 1866-186 7, 192. 


were also to have full power to challenge anyone who attempted to 
register. 1 Such, in "brief, are the salient measures of the Con- 
gressional policy of reconstruction. 

Much dissatisfaction was caused throughout the South, by 
the enfranchisement of the negroes and the accompanying disfran- 
chisement of a large proportion of the leading white men. Section 
three of the fourteenth amendment provided that "no person shall 
hold any office, civil or military, under the United states, or 
under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a 
member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a 
member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial 
officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United 
States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against 
the same, or given aid and comfort to the enemies thereof." 2 As 
a consequence of this clause, the respectable white vote of 
the South was very materially weakened just when it was needed 
most. Just how serious this weakening was may be seen from the 
fact that out of a total white vote of 115,000 in Alabama, 20,000 
were disqualified. 

And now we come to that phase oi" the reconstruction 
movement which was at once the most characteristic and the most 
disgraceful. This was the reign of the carpet-bagger, the 
scalawag, and the negro, popularly known as the Black and Tan 
Governments. The term carpet-bagger was used to designate a 
certain type of unscrupulous Northern adventurer who employed the 

1. i.icPherson t History of Reconstruction, 555. 

2. MaeDonald, Select Statutes of U. S. history, 1861-1898,209. 

3. Ku Klux Reports, Ala. Test., 911. 


ignorance and superstition of the negro and the generally disturbed 
conditions as the i.ieans for his own political preferment and per- 
sonal aggrandizement; while the word scalawag denoted a native 
Southerner v/ho sympathized with the Unionists, and who served as 
an able ally of the carpet-bagger in the work of graft and corrupt- 
ion. A certain number of negro leaders completed a political 
ring whose domination of Southern politics was for a time practical- 
ly absolute. The ^mount end character of political corruption 
is almost unbelievable. Governor V.armoth of Louisiana served for 
four years at an annual salary of v 8000; yet he himself testified 
that he spved more than ^100,000 during the first year."*" The 
Republicans nominated for mayor of Vicksburg a man who was under 
indictment for twenty-three offenses, and for aldermen, seven 
negroes and one white man, none of whom could read or write. It 
was in South Carolina, however, that the orgy of corruption reached 
its height, here for awhile the members of the ^egislaxure 
charged practically all of their personal expenses to the legis- 
lative contingent fund. Personal bills were simply sent to the 
proper officer of the Legislature, v/ho paid them, and returned the 
receipted bills to the members.^ A Mr. Woodruff, the clerk of 
the Senate at this time, said, "Under the head of supplies was 
embraced anything a Senator chose to order." 4 I'his statement may 
be more thoroughly appreciated when we examine the report of an 
investigating committee a few years later, which gives the follow- 
ing partial list of articles bought by the legislators and paid 

1. Fleming, jJoc. Hist, of Recon. II, 3y. 

2. Ibid, II, 43. 

3. Ibid, II, 60. 

4. Ibid, II, 61. 


for by the State under the head of "State house Supplies: 38 
varieties of wines and liquors; 71 items under groceries and 
delioacies, from parlor matches to vinegar and Westphalia hams; 
68 kinds of furniture, from feather "beds to coffins; 88 kinds of 
furnishings, from Brussels carpets to "buttons and hooks and eyes; 
25 varieties of womens' wearing apparel; 58 kinds of jewelry, from 
tape measures to a 64 light chandelier; 35 items under printing- 
matter; 21 kinds of crockery and glassware; and 41 items under 
sundries, from cork-screws to egg coal. 1 

A large majority of the members of various legislative 
bodies were negroes, usually lormer slaves who could neither read 
nor write. Bribery was everywhere rampant, and it was said to 

be absolutely impossible to get an ordinary bill through the con th 


Carolina Legislature without the liberal use of money. An amus- 
ing story is told of an old negro state senator, who, while count- 
ing a large roll of greenbacks, remarked to a friend, "I'se 
been sold many times befo 1 , but dis is de fust time I eb'ber got 
de money myself." 

The administration of justice was often hardly more than 
a farce. In North Oarolina and Mississippi many negro justices of 
the peace were appointed who could neither read nor write, who 
were absolutely ignorant of the law, and who simply "made their 
marks" in signing official documents. Practically all the judges 

trafficked in bribery. This loose and biased administration of 
the law gave rise to many excesses. Murders were frequent, .and 

1. Fleming, Doc. Hist, of Bee on. II, 62. 

2. Ibid, II, 55. 

3. Ibid , II, 43. 


violence, intimidation, rape, incenc ierism, theft, end general 
destruction 01 property caused a rei; n of absolute terrorism. 
The officials were either inco yetent or imp;rtial. The colored 

troops, in particular, committed many crimes, and assumed a general 


air of haughty superiority which was unbearable to the whites* 
Women and children were afraid to venture away from home, even dur- 
ing the day time, for fear of being intuited? The behavior of 
the majority of the negroes, though had enough, was not so vicious 
as might have been expected under the circumstances. They would 
probably have remained fairly quiet, had they not been goaded on 
by the teachings of the carpet-baggers, advocating complete social, 
political, and racial equality and urging them to seek revenge 
for the 1 3ng years of slavery. The slightest offense of a South- 
ern white led to arrest and imprisonment, while the carpet-baggers, 

scalawags, and negroes were allowed to go unpunished even for the 


most flagrant offenses. The elections were a burlesque on 
democratic government. Besides those who were lawfully disfran- 
chised, many of the democrats were refused permission to vote 
because of some imaginary technicality, and in some cases were 
forcibly kept away from the ballot box by a guard of negro troops. 
At the same time, large numbers of ignorant negroes were brought to 
the polls and often instructed to vote several times. Under such 
a system, it is not surprising that tremendous xtepublican majorities 
were constantly being returned. 

1. Fleming, Doc, Eist. of Recon.,11, 75. 

2. Ibid, II, 77. 
5. Ibid , II, 332. 

4. Ibid , II, 49. 

5. Ibid , II, 81. 

6. Ibid, II, 81. 


One of the most important agencies in maintaining the 
power of the carpet-beg governments was the Union League, or, 
as it was sometime 8 called, the Loyal League, This was an organ- 
ization founded in the North in 1862 in order to consolidate Union 
sentiment It soon spread into the South, including in its 
membership both negroes and white Union sympathisers. The negroes, 
however, soon gained control of cue order. As a result of this 
fact, large numbers of whites began to leave the society, until by 
the time reconstruction wr>;s well under way the membership was 

predominantly black, with unscrupulous carpet-b-g and scalawag 

lerders. Here was an ideal instrument for attaining the political 
domination which the latter so much desired. The negroes were 
ignorant, superstitious, guileless, trusting, and unsophisticated, 
easily led, nd easily inflrmed. Hight meetings, secret and 
mysterious, parades, inflammatory speeches, often inviting the 
members to crime and violence, threats of returning slavery, 
grotesque and mystifying initiation ceremonies, a bombastic, mag- 
niloquent ritual, with terrifying promises of eternal secrecy, - 
all these devices served to keep the blacks in unquestioning 
obedience to the orders of the leaders. The strictest discipline 
was enforced^ the members being compelled to vote the Radio .1 
or Republican ticket. Many cases are recorded of negroes who were 
dragged from their homes at night and severely whipped for voting 
the D emocrat ic ticket. 4 A great many lawless acts, including 

1. Fleming, Doc. Hist, of Recon., II, 3. 

2. Dunning, Reconstruction, Political and Economic, Amer. 
Hist. Series, XXII, 115. 

s « Fleming, Doc. Hist, of Recon., II, 4. 
4 * !Mi» 27 • 


espeoially barn burnings, whippings, and robberies, were committed 
by order of the Union League in an effort to intimidate the white 
demooratic voters into staying away from the polls. * The blac> 
republican voters, on the other hand, were taught, and in many 
ccses actually forced to cast their votes v/ith a machine-like 
precision which would h^ve been at once the envy and despair of 
Tammany Hall. In some c.°ses they "marched to the polls by 
battalions, armed with muskets and stepping to the beat of drums. 
They stacked their arms eronnd the polls, some steading guard!' 2 
Beside the Union League, there were immediately after the war 
several smaller organizations very similar in their methods and 
purposes. Chief among these were the Lincoln Brotherhood and the 
heroes of America or the Red Strings. These were of only minor 
importance, however, and soon became merged with the forces of the 
Union League." 

Another organization which exerted a strong influence in 

determining the trend of reconstruction was the Freedmens' 

Bureau. This was established by an act of Congress of Earch 5, 

1865, for the "supervision and management of all abandoned lands 

and the control of all subjects relating to refugees and freedmen." 

The purposes and objects of the organizations were good, and it 

accomplished the alleviation of much suffering and the amelioration 

of many deplorable conditions. Through it the Secretary of War 

issued rations, clothing, and fuel to the helpless and unemployed 

negroes; and by means of it certain abandoned or confiscated lands 

1. Fleming, Doc. Hist, of Recon., II, 22. 

S. Ibid, II, 25. 

3. Ibid, II, 20. 

4. Phelps, Louisiana, 337. 


were leased or sold at nominal prices to the ex-olaves in tmcts 
of xorty acres each. The bureau ;lso established schools and 
churches regulated labor and contracts, and provided for the ad- 
ministration of justice in cases in which the blacks were con- 
cerned. 1 But the lower officials of tne Bureau, the men wirio came 
uirectly into contact with the negroes, were in most c; ses in- 
capable and shrewdly unscrupulous. In far too many c r ses they 
resorted -co the same methods employed by tne union League, incit- 
ing the negroes to hatred and violence against their former mast- 
ers, encouraging vagrancy and idleness and organizing the blacks to 

further their own political ends. In fact, in many cases the 
personnel of the Bureau and the League was the same.^ They circu- 
lated reports •mongst the freedmen that the government would re- 
distribute all the lands of the South, dispossessing the former 
slave holders and giving each ex-slave "forty acres and a mule;" 
and for a long time this expression was the rallying cry of the 
negroes. £ tremendous amount of graft and peculation took place, 
chiefly through the cotton confiscation frauds, and by means of 


selling for private grin the supplies advanced by the government. 
The Freedmens 1 Savings and Trust Company, conducted mainly by the 
officials of the Bureau, soon degenerated into a monstrous 
swindle, and the depositors, mostly negroes of Email means, lost 
practically everything they had entrusted to it.^ On the whole, 
it cannot be said that the freedmens ' Bureau was wnolly good 

or wholly bad; but certainly the bad far outweighed tne good. 

1. Fleming, Doc. Eist. of Recon., II, 315. 

2. Ibid , I, 517. 

3. Phelps, Louisiana, 340. 

4. Herbert, Why the Solid South, 17. 

5. Fleming, Doc. Hist, of Recon., I, 382-395. 


Such, then v/ere the conditions existing in the South under 
the Congressional policy of reconstruction. Small wonder, indeed, 
thr.t they led to secret resistance under the guise of the Ku 
Klux EL en. The marvel is rather that they did not bring about 
a bloodier and more violent form of recrimination and resistance. 


The Causes oi the Ku Klux l.iovement . 

The causes oi* the Ku Klux movement are to he found in the 
generally disturbed, unstable, and chaotic conditions of the times, 
as described in the preceding pages. "The Ku IQux Klan was the 
outgrowth of the peculiar social, civil, and political conditions 
in the South from 1865 to 1369. It was as much a product of 
ti-ose conditions as malaria is of a swamp and sun-heat. The 
general situation of chaos and disorder, then, as fostered and 
exaggerated by the Congressional policy of reconstruction, may be 
taken as tne broad, fundamental cause oi the movement. A radical 
social revolution was taking place; everything was in a state of 
flux. An old order of affairs, embodying the customs, traditions, 
and institutions oi centuries, was being lorced to give way to a 
new order wnose constituent elements were not yet clearly defined,. 
And quite naturally an extended period of confused readjustment 
was unavoidable. 

But there were certain particular phases or elements of 

this situation which stood out prominently and distinctly, like a 

man of ordinary height towers above a group of children. Chief 

among -cnese, pernaps, was the Loyal League. Time snd ag.uin the 

statement is made in the bulky testimony of the Ku Klux Reports, 

as well as in other sources, that the Ku Klux Klan was formed to 

1. Wilson, Ku Klax Klan, in Century liagazine, 
VI, 599. 


es ounteract the objectionable practices of the League. 1 The South- 
erners were driven to ±'i? ht fire with fire. Another element was 
the feeling engendered amongst the whites that the federal Govern- 
ment was violating the terms of the paroles given to the Confed- 
erate soldiers at Appomattox. These paroles stated that they were 
not to be disturbed as long as they were law-abiding; yet the 
Government not only allowed individuals to be punished for alleged 
crimes without trial, not only did it countenance a political 
tyranny all the more galling because exercised by persons despised 
as social and intellectual inferiors, but in the form of the re- 
construction acts it punished a whole people by legislative enact- 
ment, which was contrary to the whole spirit of American in- 

stitutions. As General Glanton complained, the Southern people 
had passed out of the hands of warriors into the hands of 
squaws. The machinations of the jj'reedmens' Bureau, preaching 
social and political equality of the races, confiscation and 
division of lands, and countenancing idleness, violence, and 
corruption, formed another source of unrest. Still another bitter 
yoke for the proud and sensitive spirit 01 the Southerners was the 
political enfranchisement of the ignorant and superstitious blacks 
and the corresponding disfranchisement of the capable and intell- 
ectual v/hites. This led directly to the corrupt and tyrannical 
rule of the alien carpet-bagger, the renegade scalawag, and the 
despised negro, xorming a great triumvirate of misrule, graft and 

1. Zu Elux Reports, Ala. Test., 782; 
i'leming, Doc. Hist, of Heccn. , II, 331. 

2. Fleming, Civil Bar and Hecon. in Ala., 655; 
Iiu Klux. Heports , Ala. Test., 381. 

3. Fleming, Civil War and Hecon. in Ala., 656 


violence . 

Besides these more prominent causes of unrest and discon- 
tent, there were the humiliations and irritations of actual physical 
mistreatment; the farcical administration of justice; the diffi- 
culties of obtaining a redress of grievances; the gloating excesses 
of the negro militia, expensively armed and gaily clad; 1 the 
corresponding disarming of the white militia companies; the 
repetition of ne&ro votes at the ballot boxes, the withdrawal of 
the right of challenge, and the countless forms of petty political 
trickery and chicanery; the senseless extravagance of the negro 
legislatures, piling up enormous debts and multiplying the tax- 
rates many-fold; 2 the financial ruin and the humiliating poverty; 
the numerous outrages on white women by black men; the boisterous, 
insolent behavior of the idle and drunken negroes; the homicides, 
murders, barn-burnings , horse-stealings, robberies, and crimes of 
all descriptions; the depredations of roving bands of Confederate 
deserters, bushwhackers, guerrillas, horse-thieves* and outlaws 
of every description; the powerlessness or refusal of the local 
governments to enforce the law; and the harassed and nerve-racking 
feeling of living in perpetual disquietude and insecurity, — all 
these factors combined to form a situation of social, political, and. 
economic chaos and anarchy. It was inevitable that a people as 
proud and as liberty-loving as the Southerners should be driven 
to some form of rebellion and resistance against such anarchical 
conditions. That this resistance took the particular shape of 

1. Brown, Lo?/er South in Amer. Hist., 197. 

2. Fleming, Doc. Hist* of Recon., II, 71. 

3. Fleming, Civil War and Recon. in Ala., 654. 

Ku-Kluxism was probably accidental; and yet this was by fnr the 
most effective method which could have been devised. Certainly any 
o en, armed rebellion woula have been w ell-nigh impossible, and 
would have been remorselessly crushed if it had been attempted. 
And effective political revolt was impossible, owing to the dis- 
parity of numbers. Therefore, they chose the secret method of 
the midnight conclave, playing upon the superstition of the negroes 
and their awful dread of the supernatural, — and they achieved 
results, remarkable results, certainly the methods of Ku-Xluxism 
are not to be entirely commended; and yet we cannot deny either the 
efiicacy of the treatment or the desirability of many of the 

Such, then, are the causes, , general and specific, of the 
Ku Klux movement. It was not the work of any one man, or the idea 
of any one brain. Instead, it was an important historical develop- 
ment, a perfectly natural and logical outcome of the conditions 
which prevailed at its birth. Editor r.yland Handolph said in tne 
Tuscaloosa, Alabama, ''• Independ ent ...onitor " , of April 14, 1868: 
"The origin of Iiu Klux Klan is in the galling despotism that broods 
like a nightmare over these southern states, — a fungus growth of 
military tyranny superinduced by the lostering of Loyal Leagues, 

the abrogation of our civil laws, the habitual violation of our 

national constitution, and a persistent prostitution of all govern- 
ment, all resources, and all powers to the white man by the 

establishment of negro supremacy." 1 And though coming from a 

partisan leader in the heat of conflicts, this statement is not to 
1. Fleming, Civil War and Recon. in Ala., 657. 

to too heavily discounted. 



Precursors of the Klan 

The organization and existence of a society such as the 
Ku Klux Klan was not altogether without precedent. In fact, there 
had "been quite a number of semi-secret local "bands of regulators, 
varying greatly in methods, membership, and purposes, both before 
and immediately after the war. The most important oi* these was 
the old ante-bellum neighborhood police patrol. Under this system, 
the justice of the peace appointed s certain number of white men to 
patrol the Y/hole community once a week or once a month, usually at 
night." 1 " These men, operating usually in companies oi six privates 
and a captain, possessed the authority to inflict summary corporal 
punishment for any kind of a misdemeanor. Their power was not 
restricted to negroes alone, but extended also to white men in 
many cases; and every able-bodied white was -subject to service, 
which was compulsory.^ The negroes were abjectly afraid of these 
patrols, which were known to them as the "patterroller s. " William 
Garrott Brown, in his delightful book, "The Lower South in American 
History", tells of hearing the old negroes relate terrifying stories 
of "de patterrollers" , liberally interspersed with the jingling 

"Run, nigger, run I 
De patterrollers ketch you I" 

But after the war such a patrol system was illegal, and the 

1. Fleming, Civil War and Recon. in Ala., 657. 

2. ' Ibi g , 658. 

3. Brown. Lower South in Amer. Hist.. 193. 

whites were forced to resort to other more secret methods. In 
ftsny communities vigilance committees, consisting mostly of yc - 
men, were formed, and all cases of misdemeanor on the port of the 
negroes were reported to the committee. The offenders were then 
visited at night, and their unnatural "nigger pride", as the 
whites termed it, taken down a few notches. 1 In one county in 
the Black Belt of Alabama in which most of the white men had been 
killed in the war, the small tut determined vigilance committee 
used a system of signals by means of plantation bells. In other 
counties in which the fear of negro insurrection became acute, 
the whites formed secret militia companies which sought to intim- 
idate and to disarm the blacks as far as possible. 

Besides these rather loosely organized bands, there ex- 
isted also in many parts of the South various secret, oath-bound, 
night-riding societies of avowed regulators. The beet-known of 
these societies was the Black-Horse Cavalry, whose greatest 
strength lay in the north-eastern counties of Alabama. Other 
similar organizations were the Men of Justice, the Order of Peace, 
the Regulators, the Jay-hawkers, *nd many other purely local 
orders, some of which were not even dignified by possessing names 
or officers; but all were alike in attempting to intimidate the 
negroes and to reassert the superiority of the whites. Thus it 
will be seen that the Ku Klux Klan did not come as an entirely 

1. Fleming, Civil War and Hecon. in Ala., 658. 

2. Ibid, 658. 
5. Ibid, 660; 

Xu ELtix Reports Ala. Test. 1125, 1156. 
4. Ku Klux Reports, Ala. Test., 877, 664; 
Fleming, Doc. Eist. of Recon. , II, 360. 


unfamiliar and novel departure, but rather as a highly improved 
and more effective application of methods which were already 
vaguely known. 


The First Den 

We come now to the actual organization of the first den of 
the Xlan, to the humble origin of this far-famed society. And 
the thing that impresses a casual reader most about this phase of 
the order is the perfectly natural, everyday, almost commonplace 
manner of its beginning, "where he expected to find insoluble 
mysteries, diabolical orgies, and terrifying rites conducted by 
demons of the underworld, he discovers only the most sane and 
rational of mere mortals engaged in that highly prosaic and uni- 
versal occupation of seeking a bit of pleasure in their spare 
hours. Sir young men have joined together in an attempt to 
wile away an excess of leisure time, to. escape from the monotonous 
sameness of ennui. What more natural, more commonplace, more to 
be expected, than this? And yet this insignificant scheme for 
mere amusement was destined to grow into a powerful order command- 
ing the absolute adherence of hundreds of thousands of men, and 
exerting a profound influence upon the subsequent course of 
American history'. 

For a period of several years after the close of the war al] 
the ordinary amenities of social life in the South were paralyzed. 
Dancing, visiting, concerts, theatre performances, athletic 
sports, even trade and industry, — all the things which tend to 
bring people into social contact, — were at a standstill. 1 This 
I 1. Brown, Lower South in Amer. hist., 199. 


was particularly true of the little village of Pulaski, Tennessee. 

iSarly in 1866 there were living in this town a number of young 

men who had worn the Confederate uniform throughout the Civil <Var; 

and to red-blooded fellows who had fought above the clouds on 

Lookout Mountain or had seen Pickett's charge at Gettysburg, 

the situation was especially irksome. One evening during the 

latter part of May, 1866, several of them met in the law office of 

T. M. Jones. The conversation soon turned upon the absolute 
dearth of amusements in the town, and someone exclaimed, "Let's 
organize a club of some kind." The suggestion met with instant 
and enthusiastic r.pproval; and it was decided to acquaint one or 
two others with the proposal, and to meet again the following 
evening for the purpose of organization. At this secoi-d meeting 
six young men were present, — Captain J. C. Lester, Major J. E. 
Crowe, John Kennedy, Calvin Jones, R. R. Heed, and Frank 0. 

McCord, all of whom possessed highly estimable characters and 

i i 2 
represented some of the best families of the community. It was 

unanimously agreed that the purposes of the club should be simply 

those of amusement and diversion, to be obtained mainly through 

the horse-play connected with the initiation of new members and 

by means of mystifying and baffling the curiosity of the public. 

A chairman and a secretary were elected, and two committees 

appointed, one to select a name, and the other to draw up a set 

of rules for the government of the society and to prepare a ritual 

for the initiation of new members. 

At a subsequent meeting held several days later the 

1. Lester and Wilson, The Ku Klux Klan, 55. 

2. Ibid, 19. 

" 5. Ibid. b4. 

~- • - 29- 

oommittee on the selection of a name reported that it had been 
unable to reach any definite conclusion in regard to the matter. 
However, several cognomens were suggested, among which was the 
Greek word Kuklos, meaning circle. After a lengthy discussion, 
someone exclaimed, "Let's make it Ku Klux" ; and from this to Ku 
Klux Klan was an easy and natural step.-*- This name was enthusiast- 
ically accepted. It was euphonious, alliterative, mysterious, and, 
best of all, absolutely meaningless, admirably calculated to excite 
curiosity end to baffle invest igjeti on. And so the little club 
was officially styled the Ku Klux Klan. At the same meeting the 
committee on rules submitted a report providing for a set of 
officers to consist of a Grand Cyclops, or President; a Grand 

Magi, or Vice-President; a Grand Turk, or Marshal; a Grand Ex- 


chequer, or Treasurer; and two Lictors, or bergeants-at-Arms. 
The most important feature of the rules consisted of an obligation 
binding on all members to take an oath of absolute secrecy concern- 
ing all things pertaining to the organization, to tell no one of 
the order, to divulge the name of no member, and not to solicit 
any new members. ' This last clause displays a shrewd knowledge 
of human nature. In reality they wanted new members badly, in 
fact, they were an absolute sine qua non of the organization, 
for most of their diversion was to come from the initiation of 
neophytes; but they knew that the surest v/ay in which to attract 
prospective members was to appear indifferent and exclusive. Hence 
the rule. A highly grotesque and elaborately mysterious initiation 

1. 7/ilson, Ku Klux Klan, in Century hag., VI, 399. 

2. Lester., and Wilson, KKK, 57. 

3. Ibid, 57. 


ritual was also drawn up in manuscript form; but tne original 
manuscript was destroyed after tne disbandment of the Klan in 
1869, and as no copies were ever allowed to be made, only a few 
scattered orcl accounts of it have come down to us. 1 ^ach member 
was required to provide himself with the following outfit, to be 
worn only at the initiation ceremony: a white face mask, Tilth 
holes tor the eyes and nose; a tall, fantastic cardbor.rd hat; 
a gown or robe of sufficient length to cover the whole person, 
belted at the waist, and usually made of an ordinary white sheet 
or a piece of "Dolly Varden" calico, though no particular color 

or material was prescribed; and a small whistle for communication 

fa 2 
by means of a code. 

For sever al weeks the meetings of the Klan continued to be 

held in the law office of Mr. Jones. Then, a Mr. Thomas L.ertin, 

one of the leading citizens of Pulaski, v/as forced to go to 

Columbus, Mississippi, on an extended business trip, and decided to 

have his family accompany him.^ He invited one of the members of 

the society to sleep at his home during his absence; and this 

quasi-watchman m^e bold to hold the meetings of the Klan there 

during the greater part of the summer However, both of these 

places were situated in the main part of the town, where the 

activities of the initiators were naturally somewhat restricted. 

But finally an ideal spot was found. On the extreme outskirts of 

the little village stood the lonely, forsaken remains of a once- 

1. Lester and Wilson, KXX, 57. 

2. Ibid , 59. 

3. Ibid , 54. 
.4. Ibid, 54. 


pretentious mansion which had been partially destroyed "by a 
cyclone some years previous to the war. Only one single room, 
which had formerly ioimed a portion of a wing of the "building, 
still remained nabitabie, together with a large and spacious 
cellar partially filled with the debris from the djamolished part 
of the structure. Sever:! large pillars, the last remnants of 
en old portico, together with a number of gaunt tree-trunks whose 
limbs had been lopped off by the storm, stood out above the 
horizon like grim and watchful sentinels; while a quantity of 
high grass, weeds, and underbrush partially hid the demolished 
structure from view. Altogether, it was a lonesome, dreary place, 
seldom visited; for many people insisted that it was haunted. How- 
ever, it was admirably suited to the purposes of the Klansmen; 
and this they soon made their regular meeting place." 1 " 

And now let us describe one of the initiation ceremonies, 
which so far formed the main feature of the organization. vYhen a 
desirable prospective member had been agreed upon, one of the 
founders, in pursuance of the policy of non-solicitation, would 
himself express to the outsider, a desire to join the order. If 
the prospective candidate concurred in this wish, the member would 
say that he thought he knew of a way 01 getting in, and would 
then suggest that they meet on a certain night at a designated spot 
and attempt to join together. 2 The specified time and place in- 
variably found the neophyte waiting, and the member would immediately 
lead him up to the First Lie tor, who was stationed fifty yards 

1. Wilson, MZ, Cent. Lag., VI, 401. 

2. Ibid , 401. 

from the house on one of the roads leading into the tov/n. TjjIs 
functionary was fantastically garbed and armed with a tremendous 
spear, and presented a truly terrifying appearance. The ^econd 
Liot or, stationed at the house, was then summoned by a blast of the 
whistle. After blindfolding the neophyte and turning him around 
rapidly several times in order to confuse his sense ox direction, 
the Second Lictor would lead him up to the abandoned house by a 
circuitous route, taking great care that he should strike all 
the most awkward obstructions in the path.* Finally he was led 
down into the cellar, where the other Klansmen were quietly 
assembled in full initiatory regalia, and where other artificial 
stumbling-blocks were encountered, and placed before the Grand 
Cyclops. This dignitary immediately beg.-n to ply the novitiate 
with questions, partly serious, but mostly very absurd, and cal- 
culated to increase the discomfiture of the latter. After obtain- 
ing satisfactory answers to all his questions, the grand Cyclops 
would finally say, "Place him before the royal altar and adorn 
his head with the regal crown." 4 The neophyte was then stationed 
before a looking glass and a huge hat with two enormous donkey 
ears placed upon his head, after which he was commanded to repeat 
those well-known lines of Robert Burns: 

"0 wad some power the giftie gie us 
to see oursels as ithers see us." 

In aready compliance with this involuntary request, the Grand Turk 

1. Lester and Wilson, KKK, 60. 

£. Ibid , 62. 

3. Ibid , 63. 

4. Ibid , 64. 


now expeditiously removed the hoodwinks , and the victim's chagrin 
and humiliation at his unhappy plight were further increased "by 
the uproarious laughter and the shouts of mock derision from the 
grotesquely disguised members."^" After the merrymaking had sub- 
sided, tne purposes, rules, and nature of the organization 7/ere 

explained to the c an didst e, he was allowed to take the oath, and 


was then declared to be a full- fledged Xlansman. A hearty wel- 
come from his fellow members, who had now removed their disguises, 
and a plain but substantial repast, soon removed all thoughts of 
the discomfitures of the early part of the evening. 

Such was the simple origin of the Ku XI ux Klan, an 
organization which in the course of a few years was probably accused 
of being directly responsible for more crime, violence, and blood- 
shed than any other in American history. And it must be admitted 
that much of this opprobrium was partially deserved, though a very 
l^rge share 01 tne violence with which the society was charged took 
place only in the pages of partisan journals or in the imaginations 
of excitable abolitionists. But during these early months of its 
infancy the Klan was thoroughly peaceful and law-abiding in booh 
purpose and method, and attempted nothing more violent than a 
slight physical discomfiture of its initiates. The story of its 
transformation from such a purely fun-producing club of a rather 
happy-go-lucky type to a band of determined regulators who often 
stooped to violence and sometimes to crime is one of intense in- 

1. Wilson, XKX, Cent. Mag., VI, 401« 

2. Lester and Wilson, XKK, 64. 

3. Ibid , 64. 

terest, ana is entirely and logically traceable to tne highly 
anomalous conditions of the times. 



The iiarly Character and Spread of the Movement. 

As brought out in the preceding description of the original 
Pulaski den, the character and purposes of the society at this 
early period were wholly peaceful and mirth-provoking. Its 
members regarded the organisation only as a means of rendering 
more endurable tne ennui attendant upon life in a small town 
entirely devoid of social amusements. There was no thought of 
posing as a band of regulators or of attempting to remedy any of 
the current evils existent in the society of that day. In fact, 
most of the members would probably have been vastly amused at the 
mere suggestion that their little club might really serve any 
serious purpose. A large amount of mystery and a certain degree of 
mock solemnity were empl03> r ed because they added greatly to the 
enjoyment of the meetings. But throughout these first months the 
central idea was always that of securing a somewhat boisterous, 
but thoroughly harmless, form of enjoyment, and the watchword was 
simply, Amusement and Diversion 1 . The Elan at this stage of its 
existence resembled nothing so much as a certain type of modern 
college fraternity whose chief raison d' etre seems to be the 
elaborate initiation of new members. The practices of such a frat- 
ernity are not particularly aesthetic or uplifting, perhaps; and 
certainly no one ever suspected it of harboring any really serious 
purpose. But still it is essentially harmless, except in a purely 


negative way, and hardly worth the trouble rnd attention necessary 
to abolish it. Such an organization, in many respects, was the Ku 
Klux Klan at this early period. But there was this highly important 
difference; the absolute dearth of any other form of amusement 
in the Pulaski of that day gave the early members oi the Klan a 
thoroughly justifiable and sufficient reason for its existence; 
while it certainly cannot be said that the college youth of today 
is undergoing a process of stagnation because of a lack of diver- 
sions . 

Great core was token in selecting the members of this first 

den, and only young men of recognized standing in the community 

and of high moral character were admitted.^ Curiously enough, 

the six original founders of the order were all of Scotch-Irish 

descent, and, 7/ith one exception, all belonged to the Presbyterian 

Church. They had rather deiinite ideas concerning the propriety 
of various methods of conduct and behavior, and proceeded to put 
these ideas into effect in the selection of new members. ;.ll 
those who were inclined to become boisterous and uncontrollable, 
or who would not be congenial or who might be apt to disclose the 

secrets of the organization, or who were addicted to the use of 


liquor, were rigorously excluded. This fact was rather forcibly 
impressed upon the mind of at least one highly undesirable candi- 
date, who persisted in harassing the various members of the Zlan 
with the most importunate supplications for admittance. Pinally a 

1. Brown, Lower South in Amer. Hist., 200. 

2. Lester and Wilson, KKT , 20. 

3. Wilson, KKK, Century Mag., VI, 402. 

• 7- 

inock initiation was arrenged, to take place upon Cue brow of a 
gently sloping, wooded hill in the dead of night. The Klansmen 
all appeared in tneir most terrifying costumes, and after tne can- 
didate had been reduced to a state of absolute petrifaction by 

fear and terror he was placed in a barrel and sent crashing down 


the slopes of the hill. Heedless to add, he never requested the 
honor of another initiation. 

The clandestine meetings in the old house on the edge of 
town, Irom wnicii emanated c amused, mysterious noises, loilowed 
by still more mysterious silences, the various hints concerning 
the methods and purposes of the Elan which unavoidably leaked out, 
the exaggerated tales of the haunted ruins, and the inability to 
secure any definite, rational information, — all tnese things 
naturally excited much curiosity and vague speculation amongst the 
people of Pulaski and the surrounding country. T;-is feeling was 
materially heightened by the weird, supernatural appearance of 
the Lictor who during all meetings of tne society, stationed him- 
self at a certain spot on one 01 the roads leading into town, and 
who, when questioned concerning his identity, invariably replied 
in deep, sepulchral tones, "I am a spirit from the other world, 
killed at ^i:ickamauga. " Comments, notices, and exagger?ted 
accounts of some ox' the supposed practices of the order began to 
appear in the newspapers of the county; and during the summer and 
autumn of 1866 speculations and guesses concerning the nature of 
this mysterious organi zation formed the prevailing topic of con- 

1. Lester and Wilson, ESK, 66. 

2. Ibid , 74. 

versation .-mongst the townspeople. That great organ of inquis- 
ition, public curiosity, was completely baffled. No one could 
discover even the nome oi the society, nor the name oi' any single 
member, much less any information concerning its nature and pur- 
poses. The Klansmen were observing their oaths of absolute 
secrecy with scrupulous nicety, and were enjoying immensely the 
spectacle of seeing their iellow-citizens so utterly and hopelessly 
puzzled. If in public, they sir.iply smiled inscrutably; but if 
assembled in a regular meeting of the Xlan, they gave way to whole- 
hearted enjoyment of the situation. 

Leanwhile the fame of this mysterious order began to be 
spread abroad. Newspapers ell over the state, and even in neigh- 
boring states, began to print short accounts of the happenings at 
Pulaski. The Klen was attracting a large amount of notoriety in 
all quarters. A few fellows from the country immediately surround- 
ing Pulaski had been admitted to membersnip. These began to 

petition for the privilege of founding other dens in various parts 


of the county; ?nd most of such requests were readily granted. 
A number of young men from neighboring counties and from adjacent 
states were initiated while visiting in Pulaski at various times; 
and many of these, upon their return home, organized branch dens.° 
llany of these dens, in turn, also gave rise to still other local 
organizations, some of whleh were started without any formal per- 
mission from the original Pulaski chapter.^ Thus during the 

1. tester and \7ilson, EKK, 6d. 

2. lilsen, EKE, Cent. l.Iag., VI, 402. 
5. Ibid, 402. 

4. tester and Y/ilson, EKE, 69. 


autumn and early winter of 1866 the spread of the Klan was very 
rapid. By the early spring of 1867 there were dens scattered 
through several states, including especially Tennessee, Alabama, 
Mississippi, Georgia, and bouth Carolina. ^ All of these local 
societies recognized the leadership and primacy of the original 
Pulaski den in determining the affairs of the order; but the organ- 
ization was very loose, and no real authority was ever exercised 


by the parent chapter. i'he relations between tne various dens 
were very indefinite and intangible, and communication was difficult 
and infrequent. To all intents and purposes each den was a 
practically independent organization, controlling its own policy 
and practices to a large extent, yet patterned rather closely 
after the original chapter at Pulaski. 

Though greatly enlarged by this time, the Elsn still main- 
tained its original purposes and ideals. The subject of politics 
was rigidly tabooed in all meetings. Fun and amusement were still 
the dominating motives, and mystery and secrecy were still allowed 
to hold full sway in the practices of the order. The membership re- 
. quirements remained as strict as at first. Speaking particularly 
of this period, extending from the founding of the Klan up to the 
spring of 1867, Major Crowe, one of the original six members, said, 
"The order was careful in the admission of members and I have never 
known of a betrayal of the secrets of tne order. I am proud to 
say that I never knew of one single act done by the genuine Ku 
Klux Klan that I am ashamed of or do not now endorse. "4 

1. Lester and Wilson, KKK, 69. 

2. Ibid , 85. 

3. Fleming, Doc. Hist, of Hecori.,II, 549. 

4. Ibid, 22. 

So far, then, the Jllan, though much enlarged and sub- 
divided inco p. Inrge number o±' semi-independent dens, hr;d been 
able to maintain its original purposes, practices, and ideals. 



The Transf ormat ion of inunction and nature 

But 8 period o±' transformation was at hand. The members of 
the Klan "began to find that their organization could he used, and 
used very effectively, for something besides mere amusement and 
diversion. They were beginning to discover a desperately serious 
purpose for their adolescent plaything. And they were rapidly 
being convinced that their mysterious methods and practices, con- 
ceived purely in a spirit of fun and mischievous play, could be 
employed with only slight modifications in far different designs. 
Thus during the spring and early summer of 1867 the Klan v/as 
changing rapidly from a group of amusement- seeking youths without 
any serious purpose, to a band of determined regulators, honestly 

yet firmly and fearlessly attempting to correct some of the most 


glaring evils in the anomalous, chaotic society of their day. 

This transformation was due to the combined action of three 
main sets of causes. In the first place, the weirdness, the 
mystery, the air of occultism, the cabalistic secrecy in which all 
actions were shrouded, the very inscrutable, enigmatic nature of 
the name itself, — all these things combined to leave upon the 
minds of the members themselves an intangible yet strongly felt 
impression that the Klan should and would undertake some im- 

1. Lester and Wilson, KEX, 85-85. 


portant mission. 1 It was a peculiar psychological effect which 
proved to be of great importance. In the second place, there 
I was the highly anomalous situation of chaos and disorder caused 
| mostly by the disturbances and depredations of carpet-baggers and 

scalawags who did not choose to behave, and of freed negroes who 

I p 
had not yet le .rned to behave without the threat of the lash, — 

a situation which, especially in the estimation of men of such a 

stamp as the Klansmen, lairly reeked with corruption and cried 

aloud for redress. And finally, and most important of all, there 

was the impression produced upon the public by the Klan's weird 

and mysterious ways. The attitude of the general body of outsiders 

very soon changed from one of baffled curiosity and indulgent 

tolerance to one composed of a mixture of awe, wonder, suspicion, 

and absolute terror, the proportions of these various constituent 

elements varying greatly in different individuals. ihe negroes, 

in particular, were peculiarly susceptible to control by means of 

I 4 

mystery and occultism. After accidentally catching a glimpse, 

during one of his midnight prowlihgs, of the meeting of a number of 
Klansmen in their white, grotesque costumes, and observing their 
mysterious actions, corresponding in every particular to his ideas 
of the dreaded ghosts, a negro would be afraid to leave his cabin 
at night for a week thereafter. Consequently the amount of mis- 
chief which he could perform was very -materially lessened, iravel 
at night along the roads on which the Lictors, wearing their fan- 

1. Lester and Wilson, KXX, 71. 

2. See Chapter II above for fuller discussion. 

3. Lester and Wilson, KKX, 73. 

4. Garner, Recon. in kiss., 340; 

Brown, Lower South in Amer. Hist., 202. 


tastio garb and armed with their tremendous spears, were stationed 
was ilmost completely stopped. 1 Gradually it dawned upon the 
consciousness of the Klon that its mystery and weirdness were ad- 
mireble instruments for regulating the conduct of the abjectly 
superstitious negroes, with their overmastering fear of the super- 
natural and their guileless belief in the occult. A survey of 
the whole situation only deepened this impression. The chaotic 
condition of the times, the feeling amongst the members that the 
society should attempt some really serious work, the superstition 
of the negroes, who were the main offenders, and the numerous 
instruments of mystery already at hand, — all pointed clearly to 
the fact that the Elan should be changed into a hand of regulators. 
And this transformation actually took place during the spring and 
summer of 186 7. 

With this transformation in policy came also a change in 
the personnel of the order and in the character of the membership. 
In addition to the young men who had comprised the whole of the 
early membership many older and more mature men v/ere now admitted. 
The qualifications with regard to character and morality were less 
rigorously enforced, and thus a number of imprudent and undesirable 
spirits had been allowed to enter the order. c With the continued 
spread of new dens, the organization became more and more loose 
and unwieldy, and it became increasingly difficult to control the 
actions of individual members and of the various semi- autonomous 

1. Wilson, XZX, Gent. Eag« , VI, 405. 

2. Ibid, 405. 

3. Ibid, 405. 

dens. A few excesses were committed at various points, which, 

though not particularly serious, served to show that the general 


moral standard of the organization was gradually deteriorating. 
In some cases there had been a too liberal interpretation of orders, 
and in other instances the tacit, unwritten laws of the Klcn had 
been overetepped. 2 

However, the great bulk of the membership was still com- 
posed of the most respectable and most influential citizens of the 
various communities in which the Klan was represented." These men 
sincerely deplored and heartily condemned the few excesses which 
had alreadjf taken place, and wished to prevent any similar occur- 
rences in the future. In fact, a few of the more conservative 
members, realizing that in its extreme secrecy the society possessed 
an inherent point of weakness which would give opportunity for 
the performance by unscrupulous outsiders of many excesses under 
the cloak of Ku-Kluxism, wished to disband, altogether.- But "the 
tie that bound them together was too shadowy to be cut or untied" 5 
in this summary fashion; and besides, the Klan was needed to 
suppress the growing outrages. And yet it had thoroughly outgrown 
the rules and ideas meant for the little group of amusement-seekers 
at Pulaski. Therefore, the only alternative seemed to be a thorough 
reorganization of the whole order. 

With this object in view, the Grand Cyclops of the Pulaski 

den, still tacitly recognized as the semi-official head of the 

1. Lester and Wilson, KX£, 90. 

2. Ibid , 85. 

5. Ku Klux Reports, Miss* Test., 256 ; 
Garner, Recon. in Miss ., 545. 

4. Lester and Wilson, TCKTT, 85. 

5. Ibid , 82. 

society, sent a summons to oil dens of whose existence he was 
eware to appoint delegates to attend a convention to be held at 
Nashville, Tennessee, during the latter part of May, 18G7. 1 
The purposes of this convention, as outlined in the summons, were 
to reorganize the Kirn on a plane corresponding to its greatly 
increased size and new purposes; to secure unity of purpose and 
concert of cot ion; to hedge the members with such limitations and 
regulations as would best restrain them within proper limits; to 
bind the isolated dens together in a definite system with central- 
ized authority and responsibility; to exact close supervision of 
all subordinates; to correct the evils and to promote order within 
the society; to endeavor to devise measures for regulating the 
evils of current society; and to retain as far as possible the 
means and methods already in use. 2 

In conformity with this request, most of the dens appointed 
delegates who attended the convention, which was held at the 
appointed time. Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi, 
Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Arkansas were repre- 
sented in this convention. A complete plan of reorganization, 
previously prepared, was submitted and adopted. For the first time 
a definite statement concerning the principles and purposes of 
the order was made. General H. B. if'orrest was chosen to fill the 
high office of Grand Wizard of the Empire, and retained this im- 

1. Lester and Wilson, KXK, 84. 

2. Ibid, 84, 90. 

3. ibid , 85. 


port nut post until the disbMndment of the Klan two years later. 
After transacting a certflin amount of purely routine business, 
the convention adjourned, and the delegates returned home without 
having ett rooted any attention. 

Let us now examine the results of the labors of this 
liashville convention, as embodied in the so-called Prescript of 
the Order, undoubtedly the most important single document bearing 
on the organisation of the Klan. 2 This prescript really served as 
the formal constitution of the society, and contains a perfect 
mine of reliable information concerning the organization, duties 
and titles of officers, eligibility for membership, judicial system, 

obligations, and other facts of vital interest in regard to the 
Klan. It will therefore rep;.y us to make a somewhat careful and 
detailed study of this instrument. 

1. Ku Klux Reports, Lliss. Test., 252, 586; 
Garner, Recon. in Miss* , 539; 

Hose, Ku Klux Elan, or Invisible iSmpire, 2£. 

2. In reality there were two prescripts, the origin-! one 
adopted by this convention in I.lay, 1867, and a revised and 
amended prescript adopted a short time later, probably very 
early in 1868, though the exact date is unknown. A com- 
parison of the texts of the two documents, however, reveals 
the fact that in all essential respects they are absolutely 
identical. The revised prescript elaborates and explains 
some points uore fully than the original document, but 

no new material of any import snce is introduced. There are 
a few very minor changes, as, for instance, the revised 
prescript uses three stars for the name instead of two, as 
in the original, and the Latin phrases or quotations 
placed at the top ana bottom of each page in the first 
document are omitted in the second. But in all important 
aspects the two documents are the same, and therefore only 
the revised prescript will be considered, as it was the more 
widely circulated and contains more explanatory material 
than the original. The actual texts of both documents, exact- 
ly reproduced, are given in Lester and Wilson, The Ku Klux 
Klan, and it is from this source that the outline of the 
organization of the Klan given above is obtained. 

In the first place, the name of the order was under no 
circumstances allowed to he written or printed, hut was trans- 
mitted only hy word of mouth.- 1 - In ell documents three stare, *** t 
were substituted in place of the name. Thus, on the title-page 
we find the words, "The Revised and Amended Prescript of the Order 
of the ***", and under the heading , "Appellat ion" , it is directed 
that, "This organization shall be styled and denominated, the Order 
of the : **."2 'fhe following curious hit of poetry, corresponding 
well with the general air of grotesqueness which pervaded the 
whole society, is found at the bottom of the title-page, 

"An 1 now auld Cloots, I ken ye 1 re thinkin', 
A certain Ghoul is rant in 1 , drinkin' , 
Some luckless night will send him linkin', 

To- your black pit; 
But, faith! he'll turn a corner jinkin' , 

And cheat you yet I" 3 

And now we come to certrin pieces of evidence which are 
highly import cut, as tending very strongly to prove that the hlan, 
at least during the greater part of its existence, was not com- 
posed of^ lawless blackgucrds bent only upon mischief and crime, but 
consisted for the most part of loyal, upright men who were honest- 
ly, though firmly, trying to better conditions in the way which 
they considered most effective. Since this document was never 
intended to be made public, but was meant for the use of members 
only, there was no reason for duplicity ^nd falsification, and we 
may fairly accept it as an honest statement of the beliefs and 
purposes of the Elan. V/e quote at some length, in order to convey 

1. Text of Prescript, Lester and Wilson, KKK, 157. 

2. Ibid , 160. 

3. Ibid , 155, 156. 


a portion of the atmosphere as well as the meaning of this portion 

of the instrument • 

"Greed. — We, the Order of the ***, rever- 
entially acknowledge the majesty end supremacy of 
the Divine Being, „.nd recognize the goodness and 
providence of the eame. And we recognize our rela- 
tion to the United States Government, the supremacy 
of the constitution, the Constitutional Laws therof, 
and the Union of States thereunder. — Character 
and Objects of the Order. — This is an institution 
of Chivalry, Humanity, Mercy, and Patriotism, embody- 
ing in its genius and principles all that is chivalric 
in conduct, noble in sentiment , generous in manhood, 
and patriotic in purpose, its peculiar objects being: 
(1) To protect the weak, innocent, and defenceless, 
from the indignities, wrongs, rnd outrages of the law- 
less, violent, aid brutal; to relieve the injured and 
oppressed; to succor tne suffering, and especially 
the widows and orphans of Confederate soldiers; (2) 
to protect and defend the Constitution of the United 
States, and all laws passed in conformity thereto, 
and to protect the States and the people thereof from 
all invasion from any source whatever: (3) To aid 
and assist in the execution of all constitutional 
laws, and to protect the people from unlawful seizure, 
and from trial except by their peers in conformity to 
the laws of the land." 1 
1. Text of Presoript, Lester and Wilson, EZK, 154, 155. 


The organisation of the Klan was now made as strict and 
definite as it had "before "been loose and inexplicit. The management 
of affairs was highly centralized and responsibility definitely 
fixed "by means of a careful gradation of territorial subdivisio S 
and corresponding official ranks. The whole territory of the 
Elan was made coterminous with the boundaries of the states of 
Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Caroline, Georgia, 
Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, Missouri, 
Kentucky, and Tennessee. * This uttermost extent of the order was 
known as the ilmpire, end was presided over by the highest officer 
of the society, the Grand Wizard, assisted by ten staff -officers 
known as Genii. The powers of this ofiicer were practically 
autocratic, for he was authorized "to determine finally all quest- 
ions of paramount importance to the interests of the order. "2 The 
Empire was then divided into Realms, coterminous with individual 
states, the affairs of each Realm being managed by a Grand Dragon 
and his eight Hydras; the F.ealms were subdivided into Dominions, 
corresponding to Congressional Districts, each Dominion being 
governed by a Grant Titan and his six Juries; the Dominions were 
further divided into Provinces, coterminous with county boundaries, 
and each Province was presided over by a Grand Giant and his four 
Goblins; while each Province in turn was divided into a number 
of Dens, or local chapters, presided over by a Grand Cyclops and 
his two liight-Hawks? £ach local Den had in addition to these three 

1. Text of Prescript, Lester and Wilson, KKX, 157. 

2. Ibid, 160. 

5 « Ibid , 155, 156. 

officers a Grand Magi, or Vice-President, a Grand Monk, or Chaplain, 
a Grand Scribe, or Secretary, a Grand nixchequer , or Treasurer, a 
Grand Turk, or Sergeant-at-Arms, and a Grand Sentinel, or Cuter 
Guard." 1 " The individual members of tne body politic were known as 
Ghouls.*^ Thus it will be seen that the territorial subdivisions 
and the Official r Links were carefully graded, and that responsibil- 
ity was definitely distributed, with almost mathematical exactness. 

The duties of all officers were very carefully and exactly 
specified in the Prescript, so thiit each official knew just what 
he must do, what he might do if he chose, and what he was pro- 
hibited from doing. The Grand Wizard of the iimpire was to be 
elected biennially by the Grand Dragons of all the Realms; while 
the Grand Magi and Grand ..lonk were to be elected annually by all 
the Ghouls of each Den.^ All the other offices, however, were 
appointive, each head officer of each territorial subdivision 
having power to appoint the presiding officer of the division just 
below him, and each chief officer of any division, in turn, possess- 
ing full authority to appoint all of his immediate subordinates. 4 

The prescript also provided for a carefully elaborated 

judicial system, consisting of a separate Court in connection 

with the headquarters of each division. The members of each Court 

were to be appointed by the chiefs of their respective departments; 

while the proceedings were to be those of a regular court-martial. 5 

These Courts had jurisdiction over all matters connected even in 

1« Text of Prescri-Qt, Lester and Wilson, KKK, 155. 

2. Ibid , 156. 

5. Ibid , 163. 

4. loid , 164. 

5. Ibid, 16V. 


remotest maimer with the al'frirs of the Klan; and if we may "believe 
the evidence which has come down to us, their judgments were both 
swift and just. Major Lamar Fontaine, of Mississippi , a prominent 
member of the Kl.n, says in a letter to a friend, written more 
than a decade after the disbandment in 166^: "In the courts of 
this invisible, silent, and mighty government , there were no 
hung juries, no laws delayed, no reversals on senseless technical- 
ities by any Supreme Jourt, because from its Court there was no 
appeal, and punishment was sure and swift, because there was no 
executive to pardon." 1 

The revenues of the Klan were to be obtained from several 
sources. An initiation fee of one dollar was charged, to be paid 
at the time of initiation;^ and a fee of ten dollars was charged 
by the government of the iSmpire for each additional copy of the 

prescript issued to the various Dens."' Moderate fines were also 


assessed for certain infringements of the rules of the order." 
The sources of revenue to the individual Dens consisted of fees, 
fines, and a per capita tax, to be levied in any amount . "whenever 
the G-rand Cyclops shall deem such a tax necessary and indispensable 
to the interests and objects of the Order." 5 3aeh department above 
the Den was to get its revenue from a ten per cent tax on all the 
regular revenues of the division just below it, and this amount 
might be increased by a special tax, indefinite in amount, on the 
lower division whenever the Grand officer of the assessing depart- 

1. Hose, Ku Klux Klan, 73. 

2. Text of Prescript, Lester and V/ilson, XZK, 175. 
5. Ibid , 169. 

4. Ibid, 169. 

5. Ibid, 169. 


ment deemed it necessary. 

In order to be considered eligible for membership in the 
KItoi a candidate had to be at least eighteen years of age, end must 
have been recommended by some friend or intimate, who was a 
member, to the Investigating Committee of the Den, composed ex 
officio of the Grand Cyclops, the brand Magi., and the Grand Honk. 2 
And only after this Committee had investigated his antecedents end 
his pest end --resent standing and connections, and had pronounced 
him worthy to become a member, was he allowed to proceed with the 
initiation ceremony. 

This initiation ceremony was curious and impressive. The 
candidate was required to take voluntarily several oaths or 
obligations, and to answer satisfactorily certain interrogatories, 
while kneeling with his right hand raised to Heaven, and nis left 
hand resting on the Bible. The preliminary obligation read as 

follows: "I, , solemnly swear, or affirm, that I will never 

reveal anything that I may this day (or niaht) learn concerning 
the order of the and that I will true answer make to such 

interrogatories as may be put to me touching my competency for 
admission into the same, bo help me God."^ He was then asked to 
respond to a list of ten interrogatories, of which the following 
were the most important and the most typical: "Are you now, or 
have you ever been, a member of the Radical Republican Party, or 
the Loyal league, or the Grand army of the Republic? Are you 

opposed to negro equality, both social and political? Are you in 

1. Text of Prescript, Lester and Wilson, ZKZ, 16y. 

2. Ibid , 170. 

3. Ibid, 170. 

4. Ibid, 171. 

favor of a white man's government in this country? Did you belong 
to the federal Army during the late war, and fight against the 
South during the existence of the seme) .'re you in favor of 
Constitutional liberty, and a Government of equitable laws instead 
of a Government of violence and oppression? -Are you in favor of 
the re-enfr nchisement and emancipation of the white men of the 
South, and the restitution of the Southern people to all their 
rights, alike proprietary , civil, and political?"! If the 
answers to these questions were unsatisfactory, or if the candi- 
date declined to go any further, he was discharged, after "being 
v/arned not to reveal anything he had already learned.^ But if the 
answers were all satisfactory, and the candidate desired to go 
on with the ceremony, he v/as then made to take this final oath: 

"I, , oi my own free will and accord, and in the presence of 

Almighty God, do solemnly swear, or affirm, that l will never 
reveal to anyone not a member of the Order of the by any 

intimation, sign, symbol, word, or act, or in any other manner 
whatever, any of the secrets, signs, grips, pass-words, or mysteries 
of the Order of the *** , or that I am a member of the same, or that 
I know anyone who is a member; and that I will abide by the Pre- 
script and Edicts of the Order of the ***, So help me God." s The 
initiating officer then explained to the new member the character 
and objects of the order, introduced him to the mysteries and 
secrets of the Klan, and read the Prescript and the Edicts. * This 

completed the actual ceremony of initiation, though the candidate 

1. Text of Prescript, Lester and Wilson, KKK, 171, 172. 

2. Ibid , 172. 

3. Ibid , 173. 

4. Ibid , 173. 

i 'L — 

had still to take the real oath of the order, which was not ad- 
ministered, however, until a later date. 

Under the heading of Edicts, or "by-laws, we find the 
following provisions: "The origin, mysteries, and Ritual of this 
Crder shall never be written, but the same shall be communicated 
orally; the most profound and rigid secrecy concerning any and 
everything that relates to the Order, shall at all times he main- 
tained; any member who shall reve- 1 or betrry the secrets of the 
Order shall suffer the extreme penalties of the law; no member 
shall be allowed to take <,ny intoxicating spirits to any meeting 
of a Den, nor be allowed to attend a meeting while intoxicated, 
under penalty of a fine ranging from one to live dollars; any 
member may be expelled from the Order by a majority vote of the 
Officers and Ghouls of the Jen to which he belongs;*' and "Lens 
may make such additional Edicts for their control and government 
as they may deem requisite and necessary, if not conflicting with 
the Prescript."^ Many dens availed themselves of the privilege 
granted by this last clause, and enacted a large number of regu- 
lations especially suited to their respective local needs. 
Thus, a local den in bouth Carolina, where the opposition to the 
Klan was particularly venomous, enacted that any member who be- 
trayed or divulged any of the matters of the order should suffer 
death. 4 

At this point there was interpolated into the text of the 

Prescript a very curious and cleverly contrived document known 

1. Ku Klux Reports, h. 0.?.r. Test. ,4£2. 

2. Text of Prescript, Lester and Wilson, EEK, 174-176. 
5. Lester and Wilson, EKE, 185-189. 

4. Ibid , 185. 

as the Register, or cipher code, of the Klan. This was used in 

all written communications "between the various dens and offioiale 


of the order, and in all public orders or warnings. It consisted 
of a list of thirty-one adjectives, the first group of twelve 
designating the morning hours, the second group of seven standing 
for the days of the week, and the third group of twelve being 
used in place of the evening hours. 6 Thus a complete system of 
chronology was formulated, and since no regular sequence was 
followed in the arrangement of the words, it was practically im- 
possible for any outsider to decipher the meaning. Although this 
code could be used only for dates, it was very important in sett- 
ing times for meetings, consultations, places of rendez-vous, ..rid 
other similar purposes. Poll owing is the list of adjectives 
comprising the code: 

Group Is - Morning Hours: dismal; mystic; stormy; 
peculiar; blooming; brilliant; painful; portentous; fading; 
melancholy; glorious; gloomy, 

Group II: - Days of the Week: white; green; yellow; 
amber; purple; crimson; emerald. 

Group III: - Evening Hours: fearful; startling; 
wonderful; alarming; mournful; appalling; hideous; frightful; 
awful; horrible; dreadful; last. 

Besides this general code, many of the dens also possessed supple- 
mentary codes of their own for designating various local meeting- 

1. Lester and Wilson, KKK , 41. 

2. Text of Prescript, Lester and Wilson, KKK, 176. 

3. Ibid. 176. 


places, purposes of a meeting, the nature of the activities to be 
undert i ken, etc. 1 Thus, a suinmons reading, "Serpent's Cave, 
Crimson Day, Lreadful Hour, Hell's Errand", might mean to meet at 
a certnin spot in a forest at 11 P. M, on Friday for the purpose 
of whipping a number of obstreperous negroes. Though perfectly 
intelligible to anyone familiar with the code, such an a announcement 
would be considered only as the most utter nonsense by any outsider 
and therefore there was no danger of the meeting becoming known 

The general password of the Klan, acceptable throughout 
the whole extent of the Empire, was Limply "Cumberland." 2 In 
addition to this, however, practically all of the Dens possessed 
other local pass-words for use by their own members within their 
limited territory. Thus, in one county in Mississippi, the 

regular pass-word was "Avalanche" ; while "Kosciusko" was used as a 


signal of distress and a call for assistance. The sign of recog- 
nition at night for two parties going in opposite directions was 
as follows: 4 

Leader of Eirst Party, "H ..ill" 

Leader of Second Party, "Hail Who?" 

Leader of First Party, "Mount." 

Leader of Second Party, "Uebo." 
After this exchange of pass-words, the two parties would pas&;.each 
other in deed silence. Placing the right hand on the chin was 
the sign of recognition between members during the daytime, while 

1. Ku Klux Reports, Hiss. Test. ,252. 

2. Lester and V/ilson, EKE, 176. 

5. Zu Klux Reports, Miss. Test., 252. 
4. Ibid, 252. 

on the street or in any other public place. 1 The answer consisted 
of grasping the left lapel of the coat with the left hand." This 
particular form of recognition during the daytime seems to have 
been fairly general throughout the Empire. 

After this final admonition to observe the strictest 
secrecy, "Hushl thou art not to utter what I am; bethink thee! 
it was our covenant \ , w3 the Prescript is brought to a close in 
the following words: "L'2nvoi. To the lovers of law and order, 
peace and justice, we send greeting; and to the shades of the 
venerated dead we affectionately dedicate the Order of the . 

After a new member had been in the order for several 
weeks, had been tested in various ways, and had been given an 
opportunity to become familiar with the purposes and methods of 
the organization, he was then required to take the actual oath 
of the Elan. 5 This oath was never allowed to be written or print- 
ed, but was memorized by all members immediately after taking it, 
and was always communicated orally. 6 The following version was 
reproduced from memory by a former member of the Kirn several 
years after the disbandment, and therefore is probably not abso- 
lutely accurate, though the meaning and general form have been 
preserved: "I, before the great immaculate God of heaven and 
earth, do take and subscribe to the following sacred binding 
oath and obligation: I promise and swear that 1 will uphold and 

1. Ku Klux Reports, Miss. Test.^233. 

2. Ibid, 233. 

3. Text of Prescript, Lester and Wilson, KKK, 177. 

4. Ibid, 178. 

5. tester and Wilson, KKK, 197. 

6. Ibid, 197; 
Ku Klux Reports, H, Gar. Test., 422. 

defend the Constitution of the United States as it was h nded 
dovm "by our foref i thers in its original purity. I promise and 
swear that I will reject and oppose the principles of the radieal 
party in all its forms, and forever maintain end contend that 
intelligent wJ ite men shall govern tjiis country. I promise and 
pledge myself to aseist, according to my pecuniary circumstances, 
all "brothers in distress. Females, widows, and their households 
shall ever he specially in my care and protection. I promise and 
swear that I will obey all instructions given me hy my chief, and 
should I ever divulge or cause to he divulged any secrets, signs, 
or passwords of the Invisible ISmpire, I must meet with the fearful 
and just penalty of the traitor, which is death, death, death, 
at the j.ands of my brethren. "1 

By means of this Nashville convention, then, the Ulan 
embodied in its Prescript the new purposes which were to actuate 
it, and outlined the new form of centralized organization by 
means of which it was to be more efficiently governed. Instead of 
a mere group of amusement- seekers , the society had been transformed 
into a band of regulators, who were setting themselves the 
desperately serious task of eradicating the odious evils of the 
society in which they lived, ^ince the ordinary forces of govern- 
ment were powerless to enforce the laws and to grant security and 
protection to everyone, they decided to take the law into their 
own hands, and to constitute themselves a body for its enforcement 
/nd they meant to do this firmly and honestly, using no more 

violence and creating no more disturbance than was absolutely 

1. Lester and V/ilson, ICLK, 197; 

jlju Klux deports, S . Car. Test. ,422. 

2. Fleming .Doc. Hist, of Kecon. II. 59-60. 

necessary. The purposes of the Klansmen at this time were 
thoroughly honest, and their ideals were high. They proposed to 
continue with very little change the old methods and practices, 
attempting to push to its extreme limits the power of the myster- 
ious over the minds of men. 1 Some of the former practices were 
slightly modified, and a few new features were added; hut the 
essential factors of mystery, secrecy, and grotesqueness were 
maintained, and steps taken to deepen their impression on the pub- 
lic mind. With this end in view one important change of policy 
was undertaken. The disguised Klansmen now began to court 
publicity as assiduously as they had formerly shunned it, and 
appeared openly in various places, when and where least expected. ~ 
Unfortunately, however, the activities of the Klan did not 
always correspond with its purposes and ideals. The evils to he 
overcome proved to he far more obstinate end tenacious than had 
been anticipated. Resolved to use only such an amount of force 
as was absolutely necessary, yet at the seme time fully determined 
to go to any length, not thoroughly criminal , in order to improve 
conditions, the Klansmen soon found themselves combating violence 
with violence and fighting fire with fire. Thinking that an 
ounce of prevention would be sufficient to ameliorate the situ- 
ation, they unexpectedly found themselves compelled to use a pound 
of cure. Some of the men within the order beg_n to evince a 
strong inclination to indulge in unwarranted violence, and many 
lawless spirits totally unconnected with the Elan beg^n to copy 

1. Lester and Wilson, KXX, 91; 

Wilson, ZKX, Gent. Lig. , VI, 405. s 

2. Ibid. 

o U- 

it8 disguises and to commit m.ny depredations v/ith impunity under 
the clorOt 01* its unwilling sanction. 1 The element of secrecy, 
so strongly amphasized, came to "be both a stronghold and a weak- 
ness. And so the practices of the Klan from this time on present 
a curious mixture of high ideals and low practices, of open indul- 
gence and enforced restraint, of the violation of lav/ with one 
hand in order to enforce it with the other. 

1. Wilson, pg, Gent. Kag< VI, 40.7. 

Brown, Lower Sbuth in Arner. Hist., 206; 
Fleming, Doc. Hist, of Becori. , II, 528. 



The jQoa at Its Zenith: Llethods and Practices 

The period of the Klan T s grer.test activity and influence 
may be taken as extending from the summer of 1867 to the early 
autumn of 186S. During- this time it was easily the most import- 
cut single influence operative upon the social conditions of the 
South, General Forrest, the Grand Wizard, estimated that during 
the summer of 1868 the membership in Tennessee alone was approx- 
imately forty thousand, while that of the whole Klan, including 
the entire South, was about five hundred and fifty thousand. 1 
This figure represented only slightly less than half of the entire 
adult male white population of the Southern States. * Of the re- 
mainder who were not actual members, practically all were more or 
less heartily in sympathy with the movement, and either actively 
encouraged it or at least refrained from discouraging it.^ Thus 
it will be seen that the movement had attained truly gigantic 
proportions. Dens were situated in practically every county of 
the South, except in the so-c -riled Black Belt of Lower Georgi a, 
Alabama, and Mississippi, where another highly similar organ- 
ization, the Knights of the White Camelia, held sway. 4 ' iiven the 
women took an active interest in the affairs of the order, and 
played an important part by fashioning most of the grotesque 

1. Lester and Wilson, KEK, 95. 

2. Ibid , 96. 
53. Ibid , 96. 

4. Fleming, Civil War and Recon. in -Ma., 669. 

costumes which formed such an essential feature of the Klansmari'c 
costume. 1 

; curious little ciocument which illustrates this last- 
mentioned faot and also describes one of the many styles of 
costumes worn "by the members of the society is cuoted "by I.Irs. 
Rose in her little hook, "The Ku Klux Klan," and reads as follows 

"Headquarters, K. I£. X. 

Anno Domini, 1868: 

Hisses X and Y: Knowing you to he friends of the IC K K, 
the G. Cyleops takes the privilege of requesting you to make a 
couple of rohes for sc.e of his poor, needy followers, and if 
you will he so kind as to make them the protecting eye of the 
G. G. Cyclops will ever rest upon you. Thinking that you will 
make them, the following are the directions: Make 2 robes reach- 
ing to the ground, open in front, bordered with white 3 in. wide, 
white cuffs and collars, half moons on the left breast with stars 
in center of each moon, and caps of a conical shape 12 in. high 
with a tassel, with white cloth hanging over the face so as to 
conceal it, and behind so as to hide the back of the head. Make 
the first of the caps red, the second and third white, and the 
rest red. By order of G. G. Cyclops. 

Abel Haass a an an, G. Scribe. 
The Grand Turk will be after them on the night of the 15th, 
at 10 o'clock. You are requested to bum this after reading." 2 

1. Rose, KKK, or Invisible Empire 44. 

2. Ibid, 45. 

Since tne original paper upon which this note was written hae come 
down to us, we may assume th t the good l .dies to whom it was 
addressed, actuated perhaps by a love of souvenirs and prospective 
heirlooms v/hich is often thought to "be characteristic of their se;:, 
neglected to observe the last request. 

These fanciful and grotesque costumes, which formed the 
main contribution of the women of the South to the cause of Ku- 
Kluxism, were not at all uniform or standardized, but varied greatly 
in color, material, style, and workmanship ."^ The variation, how- 
ever, was largely between different localities so that the in- 
dividual members of any certain Dsn or vicinity were dressed 
•©proximately alike. The most common form of disguise consisted 
of a long loose-fitting gown, usually white, reaching to the shoe 
tops md belted at the waist, a face-mask with holes cut in it for 
the eyes, nose, and mouth, and a conical, card-board hat -.bout 
eighteen or twenty inches high." The holes in the face-mask were 
usually lined with red or black braid; while in some cases a head- 
piece was worn, consisting of a piece of cloth which in front 
reached to the stomach and was rounded into a point, while in the 
rear it covered only the top of the head. 4 " When reversed, this 
back portion reached to a point just above the eyebrows; and while 

riding the head-piece was often so worn in order to afford greater 


convenience in using the eyes. The high, funnel-shaped cardboard 

1. Fleming, Civil War and Hecon. in Ala., 674; 
Rose, KXK, or Invisible Empire, 45. 

2. Fleming, op. c it . , 674. 
5. Ibid , 675. 

4 . Ku Klux Rep ort s , Miss . Test . , 274 . 

5. Ibid, 274/ 


hat, tupering to a point at the top, was covered with cloth on 
which were painted crosses, skulls, crossbones, nd other mystify- 
ing devices. Very often a tassel of varying size and color v/as 
suspended from the top of this hat by a string; nd sometimes two 
horns were attached to the sides in such a way as to give the 
wearer a decidedly Lephistophelian appearance. 2 In some cases the 
gowns reached only to the knees, and were slashed up the sides for 
convenience in running. ° In a few places in South Carolina the 
gown was discarded altogether in favor of a very loose, baggy 
pair of trousers and a short jacket with long, flowing sleeves* 
Cheap, fancy calico v/as most largely used in making colored 
costumes, while an ordinary bed-sheet was the ruling favorite in 
fashioning white disguises. 5 Sometimes a smooth, stiff cloth was 
employed wnich glistened in the moonlight and rattled with every 

movement^ Crosses, stars, crescents, and other devices made of 


fiery red cloth, were often worn on the breast. The horses were 

also disguised by means of large sheets or strips of white cloth 

which were fastened to the saddle or held on by means of belts; 

and often the sound of their hoof-beats v/as muffled by means of 


cloth pads wnich v/ere tied over their snoes. 

The central idea of all this apparent tomfoolery, of course, 

1. Fleming, Doe. Hist, of Recon., II, 364. 

2. ibid - 364. 

3. Garner, Heoon, in Hiss. ,340; 

Ku Klux Reports, hiss. Test. ,274. 

4. Fleming, uoc. Eist. of Reoon.,II f 364. 

5. Fleming, Civil War and Recon. in Ala., 675. 

6. Fleming, Doc. Hist, of Recon. ,11, 364. 
7 « iDicL , 364. 

8. Fleming, Civil War and Recon. in Ala., 676. 

was to mystify and terrify the more superstitious portion of the 
populaoe, including particularly the negroes. With this very 
definite end in view, a large number of highly effective devices 
were invented. Skeleton sheeps 1 -heads or cows' -heads or human 
skulls were often carried on the £ addle-tows. 1 A f remework, 

fitting the shoulders of a Ghoul, v/as devised wnich gave him the 


...ppearance of a veritable Goliath ten or twelve feet in height. 
Oftentimes a tongue about six inches in length and made of red 
flannel, which could he manipulated by the actual tongue oi the 
wearer, was allowed to protrude from the orifice cut in the 
face-mask for the mouth. 2 In other instances a fringe of short 
ouills, sewed to the face-mask on the edge of this opening 
for the mouth, gave the appearance of a set of tremendous teeth, 
and in catching the breath of the wearer while speaking emitted 
a peculiarly shrill and grating sound. 4 One of the favorite 
tricks of a Klansman was to reach up and remove his own head, 
apparently, and attempt to hand it to a bystander. This was accom- 
plished by having a gown fastened over the head by means of a 
draw-string, and over this an artificial skull of gourd or paste- 
board which could be readily removed.^ Another highly effective 
device consisted of a skeleton hand made of bone or wood, 
which was held by means of a short handle. 6 The possessor of 

1. Fleming, Civil War ?nd Recon. in Ala., 676. 

2. Ibid, 676. 

3. Fleming, Doc. Eist. of Recon., II, 364. 

4. Fleming, Civil War and Recon. in Ala., 6 74. 

5. Lester and V/ilson, iOOC, 97. 

6. Ibid , 98; 

Fleming, Civil War and Recon. in Ala., 6 76. 

one of these hands was always in an rf fable mood, and insisted 
upon shaking hands with everyone whom he encountered, with results 
wiich c un be readily imagined. Perhaps the most ingenious con- 
trivance of all, however, was that of a 1 rge water-proof leather 
"bag, capable of containing three full buckets of water, which was 
v/orn under the loose robe or gown in front, with a funnel-shaped 
projection extending up to the wearer's neck.- 1 - Equipped with 
one of these bags, carefully concealed, a Klansman would ride up 
to a negroe's cabin in the dead of ni£.ht and loudly request a 
drink of water. When a cup was offeree"!, it was scornfully refused, 
and a lrrge bucket demanded. Three buckets filled with water 
were then raised to the mouth in rapid succession and the contents 
poured into the leather bag. But to tne negro, watching the 
performance with eyes bulging with fright and smazement, it 
seemed as though this enormous quantity of water was being used 
to quench a burning thirst; and when the grotesquely accoutered 
visitor set down the bucket for the third time, and said, with 
a satisfying smack of the lips, "That's fine, that's the first 
drink of water I've had since I was killed at Shiloh," and then 
incidentally remarked that he had ridden a thousand miles since 
sunset in order to obtain it, 4 the terror and stupefaction of 
the superstitious negro kneY/ no bounds. In Hinds County, Mississ- 
ippi, several Xlansmen improved upon this device by replacing the 
leather bag with a rubber suit which was strapped to the iront of 

1. Lester and Wilson, ZXK, 98. 

2. Ibid, 98. 

3. Ibid , 98. 

4. Ibid, 99. 

the body, and whioh held thirteen buckets ox water* 1 

The effects of these costumes, tricks, and devices upon 
the ignorant and superstitions negroes may readily be imagined. 
In some localities they were thrown into a perfect frenzy of 
terror and mystification. 2 Absurdly exaggerated tales and im- 
pressions of the activities of the Klan were widely circulated 
and religiously accepted by the credulous blacks. There was 
not even a thought of any rational explanation of the facts, for 
such remarkable phenomena could only be occasioned by a recourse 
to the supernatural. The most common belief was that the Klansmen 
were the spirits or ghosts of Confederate soldiers who had been 
killed in battle. In that section of Mississippi adjoining 
the Yazoo swamps there was a current story among the negroes 
that the sheeted figures were the emissaries of a horrible mon- 
ster, which spent most of its time "hollering for fried nigger 
meat", a delicacy which its agents were supposed to procure. ^ So 
strongly did such stories, inspired by the activities 01 the Klan, 
impress tne negroes that in many places they were afraid to 
le. ve their cabins after nightfall, and consequently their conduct 
improved greatly. 6 

In order to strengthen and heighten still further these 
prevalent ideas, the Klan held a series oi great ps.rades from 
time to time. Probably the most elaborate were those which took 
place throughout Tennessee on the night of July 4, lb6 7, in pur- 
ls Eo3e,£KIC, or Invisible Empire, 56. 

2. Brown, Lower South in..Amer. Hist., 205. 

3. Lester and V;ilson, EKK, 92. 

4. Ibid , 92. 

5. Ibid , 93. 

6. Brown, Lower South in -mer. Hist.. 205. 


sumce of an order issued by the Grand Dragon of the Realm of 
Tennessee, calling upon the Gr^nd Giants of all the Provinces in 
his Realm to hold parades in their respective capital tov/ns at 
that time* The one at Pulaski may be taken as a typical example. 
On the morning of July 4, slips of paper hearing the words, "The 
Order "will parade the streets tonight", were found scattered over 
the walks and posted upon the walls of a large number of buildings. 
These slips served their purpose by arousing great curiosity and 
excitement amongst the townspeople. Immediately after nightfall 
the members of the Klan began to assemble at several designated 
spots just outside the city, where they donned tneir robes and 
disguised the horses. 2 About ten o'clock a skyrocket was sent up 
from the town as a signal,^ and the parade began. In single file 
and with funereal slowness, the long line of mysterious, shrouded 
horsemen wound in and out among streets lined with spectators. 5 
Absolute silence and perfect discipline were maintained, broken 
only now and then by the short, shrill blast of a whistle used in 
. giving commands or an occasional halt while some Klan sman, having 
removed his artificial head, requested a negro to hold it for him, 
or offered to shake hands with his skeleton fingers. 6 For two 
hours the sheeted figures marched and counter-marched so snilfully 
that they gave the impression of constituting only one single, 
interminable line; 7 and then suddenly they began to file out of 

1. Brown, Lower bouth in Amer. Hist., 205. 

2. Lester and Wilson, EXK, 92. 

3. Ibid, 93. 

4. Ibid , 93. 

5. Brown Lower South in Amer. Hist.,. 20 5. 

6. Lester and 7/ils on, KXK, 94. 

7. Ibid , 94. 


the city as silently and as rayster iously as they had come, and 
were soon lost to view. The exaggerated effect which this event 
produced upon the spectators may he readily comprehended from the 
fret that the estimates concerning the number of men who took part 
in the parade varied from three thousand to ten thousand, while 
in reality only four hundred horsemen actually participated. 1 

In many of these pr.rades the grand "banner of the Kirn was 

crrried bj T a color-bearer, much after the manner of a regimental 

2 - » 

flag. This banner was made of yellow cloth, with a red scalloped 

border three inches in width. In form it was an isosceles tri- 
angle, live feet long and three feet wide at the staff. Upon the 
yellow bcitground was painted, in black, the figure of a draco- 
valans, or flying dragon; while above the dragon was inscribed 
the following Latin motto, "Quod Semper, Cuod Ubique, Quod ab 
Omnibus." 2 

The Dens, or places of rendezvous, from which the Xlans- 
men issued forth to take part in these parades or to engage in 
the more serious business of chastising some obstreperous negro 
or obnoxious carpet-bagger, were always situated in obscure, 
secret places which corresponded well with the character and nature 
of the society. Small clearings surrounded by dense forests, 
isolated bits of solid ground in the midst of a swamp, unfre- 
quented caves which were difficult of access, and lonely, deserted, 
and dilapidated buildings, particularly if they were popularly 
siipposed to be haunted, — these were the favorite meeting-places 

1. Lester and 7/ilson, EES, 9E. 

2. Rose, ESX, or Invisible Hmpire, 59. 

3. See Text of Prescript, Lester and Wilson, . 
KKK, 147, for description of banner. 


of the Klan. All business of the organization, including meetings 
and punitive expeditions, was trrns, oted at night, under cover of 
d-rkness.** Naturally, this fact added materially to the effect- 
iveness of the devices of mystery and secrecy employed by tne Klan . 
Regular meetings were held about once a week, and special meetings 
could be called by the presiding officer of the den at any time. 
All meetings were presided over by the Grand Cyclops, and r. dmiss- 
ion was by pass- word only. 4 At these assemblies a general dis- 
cussion of community affairs took piece, with special emphasis 
upon the actions of undesirable characters.^ A motion to "wait 
upon" certain individuals could be made by any member, and if 
passed by a majority vote it was then decided by means of an 
open discussion and '.not her vote just what form the punishment 


should take and when, how, nd by whom it should be administered. 
No chastisement was supposed to be inflicted by any member without 
first obtaining the official sanction of the Klan in this manner. 
A regular system of messengers was in use between the various lens 
in a certrin vicinity, and whenever possible all communication 


was verbal. In ordinary cases each Jen carried out its own 

decrees; but on those rare occasions when life was to be taken or 

serious punishment inflicted, a neighboring Den was invited to 

perform the deed, while the members of the local Den remained awsgr 

1* Rose, KKK, or Invisible iirapire, 38. 

2. Lester and Wilson, KKK, 99. 

5. I "bid . 99. 

4. Garner, Recon. in Miss., 559. 

5. Fleming, Civil War and Recon. in Ala., 681. 

6 . Garner, Recon. in Missa , 559. 

7. Lester and Wilson, KXX, 99. 

8. Hose, KKZ, or Invisible Empire, 60. 


cncl arranged for an alibi in c;se oi' investigation. 1 In this way 
all possibility of recognition was :;l3o obviated. 

Though the members of the Klan were all Democrats, with 
scarcely a single exception, the society as a "body took little 
part in politics. 2 Polities! discussions in the meetings were 
severely frowned upon, and this, coupled with the fact that no 
liquor was allowed and that no member was permitted to attend while 
in an intoxicated condition,^ caused the assemblies to be, on the 
whole, very sane and orderly. 

Another factor which contributed greatly to the success of 

the society was the stress placed upon the sacredness of the oath 

of secrecy. This oath demanded supreme allegiance to the affairs 

of the Elan, and was so heavily binding that it was regarded as 

far transcending in importance .all other obligations . 5 For this 

reason very little of importance concerning the affairs of the 

order ever leaked out until long after the final disb::.ndment .6 As 

jurors, members of the society reiused to convict a fellow- 

Klansman who was on trial; as witnesses they absolutely denied all 

i-rhowledge of the order and warped their testimony so as to help 

its members; as legislators end officials, they exceeded their 

powers or neglected their duties in order to assist and encourage 

the society. 7 Even an oath t iken in a court of justice was re- 

L 1. Rose, KKX, or Invisible Empire, 6.I5 
Garner, Re con. insist. , 339 . 
2. Fleming, Oivil ffar and Becon. in Ala., 689. 
5. Ibid , 689. 

4. Text of Prescript, Lester and V/ilson, KKK, 174. 

5. Zee copy of oath quoted in Chapter VII above; 
Xu Klux Reports, Miss* Text., 240. 

6. Rose, XXX, or Invisible Empire, 68. 

7. Fleming, Civil War and Recon. in Ala., 688; Publishings 
of Trinity historical Society, Se ries III, 119. 


garded as suo ordinate when in conflict with the Ku Klux oath, 

and members perjured themselves in the courtroom again and agaXxx*^ 

This is clearly illustrated "by the testimony of General N. B. 

Forrest bei'ore the Congressional Committee of Investigation in 

1871, Although he talked freely about the abstract principles 

end general beliefs of the order, he exhibited a remarkable for- 

getfulness concerning all actual facts and details; and it 

is very evident, in the light of our present knowledge of his 

official connection with the Klan, that he was intentionally 

suppressing a large a mount of information, and believed this course 


to be justified by his Ku Klux oath. 

The more definite purposes of the Klan varied largely with 
the locality. In some places the loc 1 dens were purely pro- 
tective, aiming only to defend themselves against the ravages of 
the negroes and the lawless bands of guerrillas and ho rse-thieves ; s 
in other places they wished to check the excesses of the blacks; 4 
in some instances they desired to drive out the ignorant, corrupt f 
violent officials, especially the carpet-baggers and scalawags; 5 
while in some cases they aspired to regulate the morals of an 
entire community, and dealt with negro schools, mixed marriages, 
houses of ill- fame, and all other subjects of public morality, as 
well as insolent negroes, alien carpet-baggers, a.nd renegade seal- 
awags. But in general the purposes of the Klan were mainly pre- 

1. Ku Klux Reports, Miss. Test., 240; 
Rose, KKK, or Invisible Empire, 68. 

2. See Testimony of Gen. Forrest, in Ku Klux Reports, Miscell- 
aneous Test., kill, 3-35. 

3 4 Fleming, Doc. Hist, oi Raoon*, II, 528. 

4. Ibid , 328. 

5. Ibid, 328. 

6. Fleming, Civil War and riecon. in Ala., 682. 


ventive. The members wished to deter people from wrong-doing, and 
only in the minority of c- ses did they resort to actur.l physical 
punishment , ^ although of course the latter method offered the only 
effective means of dealing with offenses already committed. 

In the earlier stages of the Klan, when the negroes were 
thrown into paroxysms 01 fear r t the sight of a Ku iilux costume 
and even the whites were still mystified and perplexed, thoroughly 
peaceful measures were usus lly sufficient to produce the desired 
results. A visit to a house in the dead of night "by a few members 
clad in Ku lilux regalia and the performance of one or more of 
the favorite tricks, such as taking off the head, shaking hands 
with the skeleton fingers, or drinking three buckets of water, 
followed by a few words of advice and admonition purporting to 
come from a spirit of the underworld, usually sufficed to induce 
better behavior on the part of the occupants of the building. 
But gradually people began to learn that there were only human 
beings behind these disguises, persons of real flesh and blood 
like th emi.elves ; and therefore their respect for the devices of 
mystery was very materially lessened. The old methods no longer 
produced the desired results. Therefore the EL an began to resort 
to a system of written and printed threats or warnings, usually 
addressed to certain individual persons, stating what was ex- 
pected and warning them of the terrible c onsequences which would 
follow upon their refusal to observe these requests." In this way 

1. Lester and V/ilscn, KZOi, 99; 

Fleming, Doc. Hist, of Recon. , II, 570. 

2. Fleming, Civil Y/cr and Recon. in Ala., 681. 
5. Ibid , 681. 

4. TBid. 679. 


negroes were persu.ded to beh've decently, northern c i i pet-baggers 
were forced to leave the country, and scalawags were compelled to 
resign their venally lucrative offices. Since people were still 
mightily afraid of this mysterious organization and highly unccr- 
trin ae to its function and nature, the offending parties usually 
heeded these warnings with alacrity 1 ; and in the few cases in which 
they neglected or refused to do so, the Klan carried out its 
threats by inflicting summary corporal punishment. 

Besides being used to warn malefactors, these instruments 
also served to mystify the public and, by means of the cipher codes 
described above, ^ could be employed in giving orders and notices 
to members of the XI on . Those which were essentially only in- 
dividual warnings were usually posted about the premises of the 
person for whom they were int ended;* 5 while the notices or orders 
of a more general nature were often published in various news- 
papers which happened to be controlled by members of the Klan, 
and usually prefaced by the statement that their had been found or 
sent in for publication.* These orders and warnings constitute 
the most remarkable set of documents that has e o.::6 down to us from 
the dvys of the Zu Zlux EL an; and no discussion of this organi- 
zation would be complete without several examples of these morbid- 
ly interesting inst ruments . Their authors deliberately attempted 
to produce the most shockingly repugnant and terrifying compo- 
sitions of which they were capable. For the moat p-rt, the rhetor- 

1. Lester and Wilson, EES, 189. 

£. See Chapter VII above. 

5. Garner, Reeon. in Lis s.^ 341. 

4. Fleming, Civil War and Recon. in &la« , 679. 


ic is abominable, the diction is execrable, and the general tone 
ie exceedingly low and vulgar; yet a few of these documents de- 
serve to rank anongst the most striking examples in our literature 
of the grotesque, the fantastic, the horrible, and the mysterious. 
Take, for instance, this phantasm ago rial ebullition from the pen 
of Ryland Randolph, editor of the Independen t Monitor of Tusca- 
loosa, Alabama, end published in his paper in April, 1868: 1 

"Hollow Hell, Devil's Den, Horrible 
Shadows. .Ghostly Sepulchre. 
Head Quarters of the Immortal Ate 
of the K. K. K. Gloomy Month. Bloody 
Moon. Black Night. Last hour. 

General Orders No. 3. 

Shrouded Brotherhood I Murdered rleroesi 
Fling the bloody dirt that covers you to the four winds 5 
j£rect thy Goddess on the banks of the Avernus. Lark well 
your foes I Strike with the redhot spear i Prepare Charon 
for his task'. 

jjlnemies reform'. The skies shall be blackened'. A 
single Star shall look down upon horrible deeds! The 
night owl shall hoot a requiem o'er Ghostly Corpses: 

Beware! Beware'. Beware! 
The Great Cyclops is angry! Hobgoblins report! Shears 
and lash! 

Ear -nd Feathers'. Eell and Fury! 

Revenge! Revenge! Revenge! 
1. Fleming, Doc. Kist. of Recon., II, 366; 
Lester and Wilson, K3KE, 192. 


Bad men! white, black, yellow, rep exit 1 
The hour is at hand I Be ye ready I Life is short! J. 
H. B. t. Wl 

Ghosts I Ghosts'. Ghostei 

Drink thy tea made of distilled hell, stirred with 
the lightning of heaven, and sweetened with the gall of 
thine enemies! 

All will be well!:'. 

By order of the Great 

G. S. K. X. K. 

A true copy - Peterloo." 

Here is another similar notice written by the same author, 
and published in the same paper in March , 1868 

"Serpent's Den - Death's Retreat. 
Hollow Tomb - Llisery Gave of the 
Great Immortal Order, Ho# 1000. 
Windy Month--- Bloody Loon, 
Muddy Mght - Twelfth Hour. 

General Orders No. 13*. 

Kake Ready! Make Heady! Make Ready'. 

The mighty hobgoblins of the Conf. dead in Hell-a-Bulloo assembled! 
Revenge! Revenge! 

Be secret, be cautious, be terrible! 
1. Lester and Wilson, EEK, 190. 

7T -~ 

By special grant, Hell freezes over for your passage. Offended 
ghosts, put on your skates and cross over to mother earth'. 

.Vork'. work'.: Work! I '. 

Double, double, toil and trouble; 

Pire burn and cauldron bubble. 
Ye white men who stick to black, soulless beasts', the time arrives 
for you to part. £• ,7. X. W. V. Y., and so, from Omega to Alpha. 

Cool it with a baboon's blood 

Then the charm is firm and good. 
Ye niggers who stick to low whites'. 

Begone, Begone, BegoneJ : The -world turns around, - the thirteenth 
hour appro achet hi 

The handwriting on the wall warns youl 

?rom the murderer's gibbet, throw 
Into the flame. Come high and low. 

By order of the Great 

A true copy - Peterloo. G. S. K.Z.K." 

It will be noted that the headings of the two preceding 
documents were written in cipher, and served to notify members 
of special meetings of the Klan.^- The following instrument, how- 
ever, taken from the Uni on Weekly Times of Union County, South 
Carolina, is a warning pure and simple, and strikes straight out 
from the shoulder in plain and forceful Anglo-Saxon: 

1. bee explanation of cipher in Chapter VII. 

2. Ku Klux Reports, South Carolina Testimony, 1C96. 


"lieadruarters: Mi nth Division, S. C. 
Bpecial Orders Ho. 3, K. K. K. 

' Ignorance is the curse of God. 1 For this reason v;e are 
determined thrt the members of the legislature, the school com- 
missioners, and the county commis si oners of Union, shall no longer 
officiate. Fifteen (15) days' notice from this date is therefore 
given and if they, one and all, do not at once and forever resign 
their present inhuman, disgraceful, and outrageous rule, then 
retributive justice will as surely be used as night follows day. 

"Also, 'An honest man is the noblest work of God'. For 
this reason, if the clerk of the said board of county commissioners 
end school commissioners does not immediately renounce and relin- 
quish his present position, then harsher measures than these will 
most assuredly and certainly be used. 

A. 0. — Grand Secretary." 

The more vulgar and more violent type of warning is well 
illustrated by the following example:^ 

"Damn Your Soul. The Horrible Sepulcnre and Bloody 
Moon has at last arrived, borne live today tomorrow 'Die. 1 We 
the undersigned understand thru our Grand 'Cyclops' that you have 
recommended a big black Bigger for Lisle agent on our nu rode; wel, 
sir, Jest you understand in time if he gets on the rode you can 
make jip your mind to pull roape. If you have anything to say in 
regard to the Matter, meet the Grand Cyclops and Conclave at Den 
Wo. 4 at 12 o 1 clock midnight, Oct. 1st, 1671. 

"When you are in Calera we warn you to hold your 
1. Ku Klirs Reports, Ala. Test., 1054. 


tongue and not speak so much with your mouth or otherwise you will 
"be taken on surprise and led out by the Klnn <nd learnt to 
stretch hemp. Beware, Bev/are, Beware. 

(Signed) "Phillip I sent) .".urn, Grand Cyclops. 

"John Banks town. 
"You know who. And all ".dsav/ D;.wes. 

others." "Mar ens Thomas. 

"Bloody Bones." 

Still an other type of wcrning was sent to several students 
at the University of Alabama who were suspected of being Radical 
Republicans. The following letter, together with three other 
similar ones, was tied to a dagger which was stuck into the door 
of one of the university buildings: 1 

"David Smith: You have received one notice from us, and 
this shall be our last. You nor no other d — d son of a d — d 
radical traitor shall stay at our university. Leare here in less 
than ten days, for in that time we will visit the place and it will 
not be well for you to be found out there. The State is ours 
and so shall our University be."^ 

Whenever these warnings were not heeded, the Klansmen did 
not scruple to adopt forcible methods of persuasion. The predom- 
inant practice was that of whipping. The thirteen bulky volumes 
of the Ku KImz Reports are taken up in large part by a recital of 
case after case 01 the whipping of both negroes and white persons 
by bands of masked men in Ku Klux disguises under monotonously 

1. Eu Klux Reports, Ala. Test., 418. 

2. Ibid , 418. 


8imilar ciroumstances . The usual, typical form of procedure con- 
sisted of a band of twenty or thirty men going out and whipping 
from two or three to twelve or fourteen persons in i eiry le □ : ht. 
Most of those so chastised were negroes, though now and then a 
white person was included. The negroes were pulled out of bed, 
forced to strip completely and to kneel or lie down while severel 
of the disguised men administered from thirty to fifty or more 
lashes with a whip or small club.^ Blood was usually drawn, though 
seldom was the beating severe enough to inflict any permanent or 
serious in juries. " In many instances women, as well as men, were 
so treated^ The offenders were in most cases told of the uature 
of their iniquities, and compelled to promise to auend their con- 
duct in the future, & under pain of another visitation by the 
regulators. A great deal of profanity was used and many vile 
epithets employed in connection with many of these affairs. 6 
Kegro preachers and school-teachers who were suspected of inciting 
their clientele by revolutionary teachings of social equality and 

equal racial privileges were handled in an especially rough 

manner. Very often, too, white school-teacher;-, carpet-baggers, 
and scalawags were likewise subjected to a whipping.® 

In some cases a more violent measure than that of whipping 
was employed. This occurred, however, only when the offense for 
wiiich the victim was to be punished had been particularly heinous, 

1. See Klu Klux Reports, especially Volumes III- VIII. 

2. Ku Klux Reports, Miss. Test., 225, 2S8. 

3. ibid, 258, 226. 

4. Ibid , 226. 

5. ibid , 234. 

6. Ku Klux Reports, Ala. Test., 149. 

7. Ku Eluz Reports, Miss. Test., 225. 

8. Ku Klux Reports, Ala. Test., 417. 


or when the offender attempted to resist and forced the Klansrnen 
to shoot or strike partially in se If -defense. ^ Thus a number of 
men were shot or hung, and others were so "badly beaten or 
wounded that they died within a short time from the effects of 
their injuries. 2 However, these were practically always except- 
ional instances, and formed only a very small minority of the 
total number of cases which came up for consideration. In practical 
ly every instr.nce in which a man was deliberately and intentionally 
killed by genuine members of the Elan, it was done as an act of 
retributive justice for some heinous and atrocious offense, 
usually either murder or the rape of a white In co..sider- 
ing any misdeed of this kind, the members of a D.en were all 
assembled in regular meeting and a court appointed Mhich observed 
all the forms of a court-martial. ' If the evidence showed that 
the accused was guilty, the death sentence was passed much as in 
en ordinary court of justice; if his guilt could not be established, 
he was acquitted.^' Although we cannot wholly justify the action 
of the Klan in thus taking the law into its own h^jids, still the 
venal, corrupt, and prejudiced administration of justice under the 
carpet-bag governments^ of that day goes far to excuse their 

It should be borne in mind, also, in this connection, that 
many of the most astrocious so-called "Ku Zlux outrages" were com- 

1. Lester and Wilson, KKZ, 107. 

2. Ku Klux Reports, South Carolina iest., 1474-1479; 
Miss. Test., 224. 

3. Lester and Wilson, KKZ, 106, 167. 

4. Ibid, 167. 

5. Ibid , 168. 

6. Fleming, Doc. Hist, of Recon., II, 45. 


mitted during the years 1869, 1870, arid 1371, after the Kim had 
been formally disbanded, by men who had never had any connection 
with the Kirn, yet who made use of its disguises in carrying out 
their own criminal plans. iiven before the disbandment of the 
Xlan, too, many lawless spirits copied the costumes of the order 
and used them to cover up their own misdeeds. fc ihe eztent of this 
practice may "be seen from this positive statement by Maj, Crowe, 
one of the six original founders of the society, "Wo single in- 
stance has ever occurred of the arrest of a masked man who proved 
to be - when stripped of his disguises - a i real Ku XI ux." 5 The 
Xlan itself was, beyond any doubt, guilty of much unnecessary 
cruelty and barbarity. It was impossible to keep out a oar tain 
number of members of low morals and brutal instincts; and to such 
men the opportunity to indulge in brutality, afforded by the se- 
crecy and disguises of the order, was too tempting to be neglected. 
Yet it is highly unjust, and utterly unwarranted by the actual 
frets, - insofar as these can be ascertained, - to hold the Xlan 
responsible for all the outrages that were committed under its 
disguises. The majority of the members of the order were actuated 
by conscientious and upright motives, and honestly believed their 
harsh measures to be justified by the necessity of the times. But 
whether justified or not, certain it is that no milder policy 
would have made any impression upon the disordered and chaotic 
society of that day. 

1. Lester and Wilson, XXX, 106. 

2. Wilson, XXX, Cent. Mag,, VI, 407. 
5. Lester and Wilson, XXX, 106. 




Decline and Demise of the Kim 

During the late summer and early autumn of 1868 the Klan 
underwent a second great transformation. Within this comprrat ively 
brief sp.'.ce 01 time it was changed from a hand of honest, upright, 
lew-respecting regulators, representing the best classes of the 
community, and conscientiously attempting to ameliorate the evils 
of contemporary society, to a more heterogeneous group of men of 
mixed morals and purposes, writhing under atrocious charges only 
partially justified, and desperately seeking to avert the mortal 
antagonism of s hostile and belligerent administration and a mis- 
guided public opinion. While before the IQansmen had aggressively 
tefcen the offensive, they were now frantically on the defensive, 
and sought only to maint in their homes, their liberty, and their 
lives . 

The causes of this metamorphosis were various, and may be 
traced, as in the case of practically everything in any way 
connected with the Elan, to the anomalous and disturbed conditions 
of the times. In the first place, many bad and undesirable men, 
who used the costumes of the Elan simply as a cloak for their own 
misdeeds, had been admitted into the order. 1 With an organ izati on 
of such a size and character, this was practic-lly unavoidable; 
and yet these selfish and unscrupulous members, who were thorough- 
ly out of sympathy with the real objects of the society, c used 
1. Wilsqn, EXK, Gent. Mag,, VI, 407. 


much trouble end aggravation for the more conscientious 111 Titan an. 

Besides these enemies within its own ranks, an increasingly large 

number of outsiders aped the methods and copied the disguises of 

the Ki n, and by their notorious exploits brought down upon the 


society a perfect torrent of unwarranted censure. Many of the 
more respectable Klaneinen became disgusted with the degeneration 
and misrepresentation of the society and resigned their membership f 
The very element of secrecy, which had been such a bulwark of 
strength, now became a source of weakness. The identical disguises 
which enabled the Klan to deceive outsiders also made it possible 
for outsiders, with perfect reciprocity, to deceive the Elan itself. 

Individual members could perform deeds which were not sanctioned 
by the society as a whole. It was impossible to ascertain, in 
mrny cases, whether a certain act had been performed by members 
with the sanction of their Den, or whether a member or members 
had done it without any official recognition, or whether a total 
outsider h- c d committed the deed. 

But whatever the nature or circumstances of the act, the 
Elan was given full and unreserved credit for every outrage of any 
sort. It mattered not under which of the above three categories 
any particular misdeed ch need to fall, it was alv/ays charged to 
the official sanction of the Klan, Yet because of their policy 
of absolute secrecy and their oath to divulge nothing in any way 


connected with the order, the members could not e:xplain their 

1. Lester and Wilson, KKE, 101. 

2. Ibid , 101. 

3. 'uilson, KEK, Gent. Mag., VI, 407. 

4. See' copy of oath reproduced in Shapter VII above. 

real position or defend themselves against these unjust chrges. 
They believed their objects to he essentially ^ood ?nd their method! 
justified, , at least in the great majority of cases; and they 
chafed at "being so cruelly misunderstood, nd at being forced to 
m.intain an utter silence which seemed to give a tacit acquiescence 
in the undeserved charges which were hurled ag-inst them. Added 
to tnis was the bitter knowledge, on the other hand, that some of 
their own number had been fi lse to the ideals of the order, and thai 
a few of the charges of crimes co.^-mitted by members for petty 
personal revenge were undeniably true. 

Out of this policy of mystery and secrecy and silence 
grew a popular misunderstanding and misinterpretation oi the 
character and purposes of the order. People obtained an intangible 
impression that the Xlan was meditating some terrible measures 
of crime and extermination, and gave way to an unreasoning fear of 
the society which was only enhanced by their utter ignorance of 
its real purposes and the general indefi nit eness and vagueness 
of the whole situation.-'- They obtained no positive assurances of 
j.ny kind from the order, but instead met only s. sphinx-like., enig- 
matic silence; and so, following the universal bent of human 
nature, which is rlways suspicious of the secret and the mysterious, 
they imputed to the KX..nsmen the worst possible motives wnich their 
fertile imaginations could devise. And yet, curiously enough, 
side by side with this growing fear of the motives of tne order 
was a decreasing alarm at its methods. The common populace had at 
last become convinced that there was nothing of the supernatural 
1. Lester and Wilson. EKE,. 107. 

in the praotices of the Kim, nd that benind tne grotesque die- 
guises were only human beings like themselves." 1 " Therefore the 
effectiveness of the foimer tricks and methods of secrecy and 
mystery was greatly reduced, and much more stringent measures were 
necessary in order to produce the desired results, dven the negroee 
so far overcame their terror at the sight of a XI an cm n that many 
of them donned a costume and used it as a disguise on their 
foraging expeditions. 2 How large numhers of whites outside the 
order also adopted this practice has already "been described. * 
It is a significant fact that of a large number of persons 
arrested in Tennessee for wearing Ku Klux disguises, the majority 
were negroes, and the remainder were whites totally unconnected 
with the order. 4 Not a single genuine member was so arrested. 5 
The Klrnsmen, besides resenting bitterly such copying of their 
disguises by the very persons whose conduct they were attempting 
to regulate, felt that it was due to themselves, to society, and 
to the government that they afford the lawless element of the 
community no such facilities for the commission of crime with 
impunity; and therefore they acted with great severity against 
tnose caught violating their rules. 6 

The general public, however, because of the silence still 
maintained by the Klan, did not understand the perfectly justifi- 
able reason which lay behind these severities, and imagined that 
perhaps this was the beginning of the terrible holocaust of death 

1. Lester and Wilson, KKX, 104. 

2. Ibid, 105. 

5 . See pr e c e di ng eh apt er . 

4. Lester and Wilson, KEK, 106. 

5. - Ibid, 106. 

6. Lester and ^ilson^^Cg. 106 . j 


and de8truotion concerning which no one had any definite inform- 
ation, but which everyone feared. Thereiore, people began to pre- 
pare themselves in a vague and uncertain manner for the comiict 
whloh they felt was approaching. The negroes, in particular, joined 
by a few whites, begm to form compr.nies and to drill at night, 
with the purpose of defending themselves against the fancied on- 
slaughts of the liu Klux." 1 " A growing feeling of antagonism and 
hostility between the tv/o parties soon became very marked. 
Restraint bee me more and more difficult, and on each side h; rsh 
rnd cruel crimes and outrages were committed. ^ The Ku Klux 
members, honestly attempting to uphold the morals of the community, 
and really intending harm to no innocent person, as they believed, 
were sullen and aggrieved because acts which they had not committed 
and motives that they did not entertain were imputed to them; 
while the members of the opposition party, composed of negroes 
and most of the whites not connected with the order, believed 
themselves to be acting in the strictest self-defense against 
the vague yet awful ordeals which they felt sure the Klan was 
preparing for them. Thus by the autumn of 1868 a condition of 
affairs approaching that of civil war existed in many localities. 

By this time the Klansmen had finally reached the con- 
clusion that their policy of absolute secrecy could no longer be 
strictly maintained, and that they should at least attempt to 
justify their position in the eyes of the public. Therefore, early 
in Sept amber, 1868, the Grand Dragon of the Realm of Tennessee 

1. Lester and V/ilson, KKE, 108. 

2. Ibid , 108. 

5. Wilson, EXK, Gent. Mag., YI, 407. 


issued a general order in which he set iorth the most import: at 
principles nd objects of the Klen.^ Some of the more striking 
extrcts from this order read as follows: "This Ki n is not an 
institution of violence, lawlessness , and cruelty; it is not 
lawless; it is not aggressive; it is not military; it is not 
revolutionary. It is essentially, originally, and inherently a 
protective org nization. It proposes to execute law instead of 

resisting it. This Elan is not a political party; it is not a 

military party. We are striving to protect all good, peaceful, 

well-disposed and law-abiding men, whether white or black. "2 

But matters had reached such a stFte by this time that 
few persons paid any attention to this statement; and by those 
who did it was regarded purely as an attempt to appease the general 
wrath. ^ Public opinion demanded drastic action against the Elan* 
Therefore, in September, 1868, Governor Brown low of Tennessee 
called the legislature of that st:~te into special session for the 
purpose of attempting to cope with the situation. 4 After a very 
brief session and little discussion, an Anti-Ku. Klux Statute 
was passed, many provisions of which were rjrnost tyrannic 1 in 
their nature. This was followed during the ensuing months by 
similar statutes passed by other state legislatures; 6 but since 
this law in Tennessee was the first one to be passed, since it 
was fairly typical of all the others, -nd since it was this bill 


Lester and Wilson, KXK, 109. 


Ibid, 109. 


Ibid, 11.0. 


Ibid, IIS. 


Ibid, 113. 


Ibid, 114} 

Fleming, Doc. hist, of Recon.,11, 375. 


which led directly to the final disbrndrnent of t]ie Kim, we 
Shell examine only this one act. 

In reading the exceedingly harsh and severe provisions of 
this statute, one is almost reminded of the old Albigensirn per- 
secutions, or the cruelly rigorous legislation parsed against the 
Jews in many mediaeval countries. It was provided that if any 
person should unite with, associate with, promote or encourage 
any secret organization of persons who prowled through the country 
or towns, by night or day, disguised or otherwise, he should on 
conviction he fined not less than five hundred dollars and 
sentenced to not less than five years in prison. If any person, 
voluntarily informed on anyone guilty of violating any of the 
provisions of this ret, he was to receive as a reward one-half 
of the fine imposed; while if such an informer were himself guilty 
of any of the provisions of the act, he was to he protected from 
any prosecution whatever. Any inhabitant of the state was fully 
authorized to arrest anyone whom he believed to be guilty under 
the provisions of this act without process, in any county of 
Tennessee. Any person feeding, lodging, entertaining, or conceal- 
ing an offender against this law v/as to be subject to the same 
penalties as the actual, offender. Any person mailing, or causing 
to be made, or having in his possession any uniform or regalia was 
to be fined at the discretion of the court; and it ?;as made lawful 
for anyone assailed at night by a disguised person to kill his 
assailant. Newspapers were forbidden to publish anything coming 
from or pertaining to the Klan. Ihis law was m^de to apply to all 
offenses mentioned in it which had been committed before its 


passage; and it was provided that any court trying any case 
under this act might grant "as many new trials as my be necessary 
to att in the end of justice. nl It will readily he seen th«t 
since this law applied to all offenses committed before its passage 
it was really an ex post fact o measure, and therefore unconstitu- 
tional; that it enabled any guilty person to escape all punishment 
by the despicable method of turning informer; and that it contained 
the unprecendented provision of making every inhabitant of the stal* 

an officer extraordinary , with full power to arrest without 
process, on mere suspicion. . What a magnificent opportunity this 
last clause provided for the satisfaction of petty personal 
spites and grudges may be readily imagined. 

The same Legislature also uthorized the Governor to 

organize, equip, and call into active service an armed volunteer 


force to be known as the Tennessee tit ate Guards. " Upon the 
representation of ten Union Republican men, or three justices of 
the peace, residing in any county of the state, that armed forces 
were needed to maintain order, the Governor might declare martial 
law in such counties and send the volunteer troops there to en- 
force the law, ^' The expenses of these troops were to be cellect- 
ed from the counties upon which they were quartered. 

The passage of these harsh and tyrannical measures 
precipitated s perfect reign of terror. The members of the Klan 
were forced into the attitude of men fighting for life, and liberty. 

1. See Lester and Wilson, EKK, 114-125, for text of this act. 

2. Lester and V/ilson, KKZ, 123. 

3. Ibid , 123. 

4. Ibid. 124. 


Thou sands of tnem had never in their lives been lawbreakers; yet 
now their mere membership in the order, which had been perfectly- 
lawful when they joined, was made a penal offense. For this 
alone, regardless of r ny illegal acts whicn tney had or n? d not 
co?.i:iixted, tney were mrde liable to fine and imprisonment, were 
exposed to arrest without process by any malicious negro or meddle- 
some white man, and were denied even the privilege of obtaining 
a meal or a night's lodging away from home. They were practically 
outlawed; and like an animal driven to bay, they turned and made 
one last frantic effort to defend themselves against their oppress- 
ors. With a rashness and an abandon born of desperation, they 
committed many excesses; the negroes, Union whites, and volunteer 
troops replied in kind; and for a certain period during the erly 
winter 01 18b9 a practical state of warfare existed. 1 It was 
said that hundreds of people slept in the woods for weeks at a 

ti e in order to escape a night visit from tne raiders of either 

side. Shippings, robberies, and shooting affrays were d ily 
oceirrences ; business was paralyzed; industry was at a standstill; 
and all the ordinary affairs 01 life were subordinated to tne 
exigencies of this absorbing struggle.* 5 

It was under sucn conditions as these that the Grand 
Wizard, General LI. B. 1 orrest, in pursuance of his power as the 
chief executive "to determine finally all ruestions of paramount 
importance to the interests of the order", 4 at length decided to 

1. Lester and Wilson, HSX, 12b. 

2. au Klux Reports, I, 35. 

3. Ibid, 30-58; 

Lester and Wilson, jlKE, 125-.12P. 

4. Text of Prescript, Lester and Wilson, KXK, 166. 



disband the Klan. Accordingly, 1st© in February, 1869, 2 he 
issued a proclamation addressed to all Realms, Dominions, Provinces, 

and Dens in the Empire, calling upon all members of the XI n to 
disband. ^ In this document the Gr^nd Wizard gpve a brief outline 
oi tne severe legislation which had been directed against the Klan, 
and pointed out the tremendous dangers and difficulties involved 
in maintaining an organized existence. He contended that the 
order had now in a large measure accomplished the main objects 
of its existence. At a critical and chaotic time, when all 
omier agencies for the protection of liie and property had lsiled, 
the Klan had afforded such protection to many families; but some 
members had disobeyed orders and a number of outsiders had pre- 
sumed to perform cts for which the society was not responsible, 
but wnich it was unjustly accused of encouraging. This had caused 
misunderstanding, misrepresenxation, censure, and opposition. 
Therefore, since the order had largely accomplished tne ends for 
which it had been organized, and since its continued existence 
involved such great dangers and difficulties, it was deemed best 
to disband. The members were directed to burn or otherwise destroy 
all regalia and par nphernalin oi every description, and all docu- 
ments in any w y connected with the society; and they were command- 
ed to desist from all further assemblies or "cts as Ku Klux. how- 
ever, they were counseled to assist, in their private capscities, 
in maintr-ining peace and order in the future. 

1. i«ester and Wilson, KKK, 128. 

2. The exact date is unknown; out iz was sometime between 
February 20 and Ll?rch 1. 

3. Lester and Wilson, KKK, 128. 

4. nee Lester and Wilson, KICK, 128-130, for contents of this 


ihis proclamation, then, terminated the official and or- 
ganized existence of the Elan* Owing to the poor facilities for 
communication, the great extent of the Empire, and the fact that 
the newspapers were forbidden to publish Eu Elux notices, a few 
outlying Dens never received a copy of the order, sad continued 
to maintain an isolated and precarious existence for some time 
lon er." 1 " But in the great majority of instances the command was 
duly received, and was promptly and implicitly obeyed. All docu- 
ments were "burned, and all disguises, costumes, aid other para- 
phernalia scrupulously destroyed.'^ 'inhere were many weird and 
impressive scenes as the members assembled for the last time in 
their secret meeting-places, donned again their awe-inspiring 
costumes, recited once more their mystic ritual, and then consigned 
both ritual and costumes to the Hemes, In the s ember light of 
the dying embers of the last relics of their disbanded organization, 

they pronounced its name rloud for the last time, shook hands in 
silence, and slowly started homeward. A graphic description of the 
disbandment of the den at Hashville, Tennessee, is given by a 
member who took part in the ceremony. "In Nashville, just before 
the disbandment, the Elansmen, in full Eu Elux regalia, paraded 
through the streets, and although the Capitol was in charge of 
three thousand Reconstruction militia, and two hundred police, 
who were sworn to take every Eu Elux dead or alive, the boldness 
of the society so dumbfounded the police, that the silent horse- 
men rode through the lines without being molested. Straight up 

1. Lester and Wilson, EEE, 130. 

2. Ibid , 130. 

3. Ibid , ISO. 


Capitol Hill they marched and then down again, not B word was 
spoken, and once outside the city they entered the shadows of the 
forest. Down its dim nisles, lit by tnreads of moonbe am 8, the 
horsemen slowly wound their wry to the appointed place. For the 
last time the Chaplain led in prryer, the men disrobed, drew from 
each norse his white mantle, opened a grave nd solemnly buried 
their regalia, sprinkling the folds with the ashes of their burned 
ritual.. In this weird ceremony ended the most remark- ble Revo- 
lution, in mmy respects, in hi story. The Ku Klux Klan was born 
in mystery, lived in mystery, and mystery will ever shroud its 
grave." 1 

Thus ends the story or the Ku Klux Klan. In the actions 
end conduct of this strange and cabalistic society there is much 
to condemn rud more to regret; but he who obtains a full under- 
standing of the anomalous situation, social, civil, and political, 
which cp lied it forth, will also find much to awaken sympathy 
and even a little to call forth admiration. 

1. Rose, KKK, or Invisible Empire, 71. 



Continuance of the Movement After the Disbandment 

But though the Elan itself was now disbanded, this fact 

did not by any means lead to an immediate cessation of all violence 

and disturbance. The Ku Klux Kl;n was only one, though the 

greatest and most widely known, of e large number of similar 

organizations. The activities of all these regulative societies 

t'.k:en together came to be designated by the generic term, Ku Klux 

Movement." 1 ' But the members of the Klen itself comprised only 

about one-half of tne total membership of all tnese allied organ- 

izetions; and since tne latter were unaiiected by the order of 
disbandment, they continued their former practices as usual f with 
only small abatement. 

Practically all of these societies were patterned very 
closely after the Ku Klux Klan in purpose, method, and practices. 
They all wished to drive out the carpet-bagger and the scalawag, 
to keep the negro in nis plsce, and to secure the domination of 
the wnites in the affairs of the South; and tney ell sought to 
bring about such a condition by means of a combination of mystery, 
secrecy, and violence. They differed greatly in minor details; 
but in 'ell lsrge and essential things they were unanimously agreed. 
Probably the largest and most influential of these organizations, 
outside of the Klan itself, was that known as the Knights of the 

White Camelia, which was especially powerful in the Black Belt of 

1. Fleming, Civil War and Recon. in &la.j 674. 

2. Brown. Lower South in Amer. Hist.. 208. 


southern Mississippi, Alabama, >-nd Louisiana. This order was lirst 
org mzed in Sow Orleans, on M.y 2b, 1867, 1 find sonn began to 
spread with remarkable rapidity. In June, 1868, e convention was 
neld in New Orleans, and i centralized admin 1st r? five system, 
including a Grand Council and several Subordinate or .uistrict 
Councils, adopted. 2 The discipline was strict and good order was 
rigidly maintained. The fundamental tenet oi -cne members of tne 
society was the supreme importance of the maintenance of the 
superiority of the white race, which they proved, at least to their 
own satisfaction, by historical end physiological evidence. JSvery 
initiate was forced to promise never to marry any except a white 
woman, never to vote for any except a white mm, to protect all 
whites against the encroachments of the blacks, to oppose any sign 
of social equality and intermarriage between the races, and to 
"observe a marked distinction between the races in public and 
private life." However, he was al^o required to respect and pro- 
tect the blacks in their just and lawful privileges and rights. 
Like the XI an, it was a secret, night-riding order. 3 Other sim- 
ilar organizations, all very much smaller, yet much alike in their 
purposes and methods, were the Constitutional Union Guards, The 
Sons of '76, The '76 Association, Pale j&'aces, White Boys, White 
Brotherhood, Regulators, White League, White Kose, Lost Glen of 

Gocletz, knights of -une Golden circle, Centaurs of Caucasian 


Civilization, and Angels of Avenging Justice. 

I.Fleming, Civil War and Eecon. in Ala., 66 9. 
2. Ibid , 669. 

5. See Fleming, Doc. hist, of Recon., II, 549-354, for constitution 

and ritual of this order. 
4. Fleming, Civil far and Eecon. in Ala., 673. 


During the years 1869, 1870, and 1871 these various 
societies still continued to cause t great anount of disturbance 
and violence." 1 " All the evils which had attended the latter d :ys 
of tne kvl Klux Elan were fully duplicated, and in some c .ses even 
advanced to more serious proportions. The various state legis- 
latures passed measure after measure in a vain effort to remedy 
conditions; but with the weak and inconsiderable resources at 
their disposal, they were powerless to cope with the situation 
effectually.^ Finally the national government came to tne assis- 
tance of the states, although it must be confessed that the Con- 
gressional leaders who brought about this assistance were interested 
not so much in ameliorating tne disturbed conditions in the South 
as in using the so-called Xu Klux outrages as m excuse for ob- 
taining control of the Southern elections. With this double object 
in view, however, they passed the three jinf or cement Acts. The 
first two of these, passed on May 13, 1870, and February 26, 1871, 
respectively, were intended primarily, thoggh not ostensibly, to 
give the Radical party in the South control over elections, and 
dealt mainly with methods of voting, the franchise, eligibility 
requirements, registration, election supervisors, and closely 
allied subjects.^ There was no specific reference to the Ku Klux 
Movement, and therefore these two acts need not concern us further. 

In the third Enfor cement Act, however, passed on April 
20, 1871, and known also as the Ku Klux Act, a serious effort was 
made to correct the current evils caused partially by the secret 
1. Lester and Wilson, KKK, 131. 

\\ MoT^onald,* Select Statutes of u. S. Hiet„ 1861-1898,247,249 j 
;..c?herson, Eist. of Recon. , 546-550. 


societies. The President was authorized to declare the Southern 
States in a state of rebellion, to suspend the writ oi hab e as 
corpus , rnd to employ the land and naval forces of the United 
St tes, whenever and wherever he became convinced that a condition 
of insurrection, domestic violence, and unlawful conspiracy exist- 
ed. It was forbidden to hinder the execution of the laws of the 
United States, to prevent anyone from accepting or holding office, 
to drive away any official or witness, and to appear in disguise 
on v public highwry or on nother's premises. Cases of cons v iracy 
and of violence committed in disguise were to be tried in the 
federal courts; and the federal judges were empowered to exclude 
from the jury anyone suspected of being connected with any secret 
society. 1 

The provisions of this act, coming at a time when the 
work of the secret orders was ^linost completed, when there was 
no longer any urgent or logical need for their existence, and when 
the influential whites of the South were just beginning to re- 
obtain control of affairs, dealt a death-blow to the whole Ku 
Klux Movement. Pr osecutions soon began on a large scale. Up to 
April 10, 1872, four hundred and ninety persons were indicted 
under this act in Mississippi rlone, of whom one hundred and 
seventy-two were arrested and bound over, twenty-eight pleaded 
guilty, and fourteen confessed and turned state's evidence. 2 Before 
October 17, 1871, eighteen hundred arrests had been made in all 

parts of the South. 3 i n South Carolina President Grant suspended 

1. See McDonald, Select Statutes of U. S. Eist., 1861-1898,262; 
McPherson, Handbook of Politics for 1872, 65, for provisions 
of this act. 

2. Garner, Reeon. in Miss., 352. 

3. Fleming, Doc. Hist, of Recon., II, 150. 

9 f J- 

the writ of habeas co rpus i'or several weeks in nine counties. 
In Worth Carolina Governor Holden fppointed a man of high iniluence 
in each county who worked ruietly amongst the members of the 
secret societies and persuaded them to disband. 2 in all other 
states arrests were also and stringent measures t r ken to 
force the various organizations to disband. 

The growing danger of prosecution, the accomplishment of 
many things which they ht d set out to do, the uselessness of 
further organized existence, the increasing desire for peaceful 
and normal conditions, the gradual attainment of the control of 
affrirs by the influential white element of the South, — all 
tnese things combined to sound the imell of the Ku Klux Movement. 
The secret, mysterious, night-riding societies had completed their 
share of the work; the remainder of the battle for supremacy 
was to be fought out in the open. And so by the end of the year 
1875 practically all of the secret societies had been disbanded, 
the long list of acts of violence and mystery and terror had been 
brought to a close, and the South of the Reconstruction was rapid- 
ly fading away into the thin substance of which memories are made. 

1. Fleming, Doc. Eist. of Recon., II, 128. 

2. Publications of Historical Society of Trinity College, 
Series. Ill, 120. 


The Klan*s PI nee in History- 
Such is the story of the Ku Klux Klan, from its humble 
origin to the final disbandment i nd the enduing overthrow oi the 
whole allied movement. Having considered the purposes, methods, 
and rets of the order, what place in history shall we accord it? 
Under what heading shall its name he indexed in the great classi- 
ficatory catalogue of the world's history? In what niche of the 
Statuary Hall of import nt historical organizations shall we 
erect its monument? 

The appraisal of the exact position to he occupied by 
the Elm is, and must ever remain, a matter of dispute. There are 
still the diametrically opposed opinions and judgments, softened 
and blurred by time, yet still existent, of the Korthener and 
the Southerner. To the former the name Ku Klux signified con- 
spiracy, outlawry, and tomfoolery, the stultification of the fed- 
eral Government, and the practical nullification of tne iimanci- 
pation Proclamation; while to the latter the Klan represented 
the overthrow of a tyrannical oppression end the reassert ion of 
many of the great principles of the American Revolution. To 
one the Klansman was a conspirator and a criminal; to the other he 
was a hero and a liberator. This radical difference of opinion 
is well illustrated in the methods and report of the Joint 
Congressional Committee which investigated conditions throughout 
the Southern States in 1671 and 1872. The majority of the com- 


mittee took the attitude of prosecuting attorneys dealing with 
desperate criminal l , obtained much hearsay, partisrn, I nd exaggera- 
ted evidence, and brought in a report which v;as violently de- 
nunciatory;"'" while the minority assumed the position that an 
indictment could not be brought Against a whole people, softened 
the evidence and palliated the offenses as far as possible, and 
concluded thr.t the movement had not been without many admirable 
i nd justifiable features. 2 

In spite of these differences of opinion, however, it is 
possible to arrive at certain incontrovertible conclusions with 
regard to the Ku Klux movement.. In the first place, it was not 
the mere scheme or contrivance of any single man or of any single 
set of men. It was not confined to any isolated section of the 
South or to any particular clique or group of people. Instead, 
it represented the feelings and expressed the will of a whole 
people. Of this there can be no doubt. The movement was so wide* 
spread and spontaneous that we are forced to regard it as a true 
historical development, arising naturally out of the disturbed 
and anomalous situation which attended its birth. In the second 
place, it was i ngen i. ous, , and represented practically tne only form 
of resistance which under the circumstances would have been possible 
and successful. The Southern whites had tried open secession, and 
had been defeated. Then they had attempted to cope with the sit- 
uation by means of legislation, in the form of the so-called 
Black Codes; and Congress interfered and undid their work. But 

1. See the Majority report in Vol. I of the Ku Klux Reports. 

2. See tne Minority report in Vol. I of the Ku Klux Reports. 


tney found the Congressional to be Irritating, unwiee, 
oppressive, and utterly impossible. To men of their pride and 
honor the situation was unendurable, and they resolved to resist. 
But what form should their resistance take? It could not be open 
warfare, for they h^d promised to forego the right of secession, 
and, besides, their resources were utterly wasted. It could not 
be through the ballot-box, for most of them were disfranchised. 
Therefore, they resolved to bring about a secret revolution. The 
methods of the Ku Klux Klan, organized merely for boyish sport, 
fitted their purpose admirably, and they m.-de the Kirn the agent 
of their secret resistance. William liarrott Brown, in his inter- 
esting work, "The Lower South in American History," compares this 
secret revolution to the deathbed stratagem of Cardinal Richelieu, 
who, when his enemies became too powerful to be resisted openly, 
took, to his bed and feigned death, muttering to himself, 
"The lion's skin's too short to-night, - 
u ow fort he fox ' s . " 1 
In the next plrce, this movement was highly unique. It 
••.rose out of a situation which was unexampled; and, as in the case 
of its environment, we may search the pages of history in vain 
for its counterpart or a close parrllel. Various historical anal- 
ogies have been suggested, such as the Carbonari of Italy, the 
Tugendbund of Germany, tne hir.ilists of Russia, the Young lurks, 
and the Confreries of mediaeval Prance. s But beyond the common 
element of secrecy, the analogy between any of these revolutionary 

1. Brown, Lower South in Amer. Hist. ,.191. 

2. Lester and Wilson, KTTg, 25. 


societies and tne Ku Klux Klan is far more apparent than r al. 

And finally, the movement Wf s successful in accomplishing the thingii 

which it set out to perform. It destroyed the Reconstructionist 
reign of corruption and injustice, drove the carpet-bagger and 
the scalawag out of off ice, xorced the negro back into what was 
regarded as his proper plrne, and restored the supremacy of the 
old white aristocracy of the bouth. Cert- inly no open revolt could 
have succeeded more completely. 

There still remain two highly controversial questions in 
connection with the Klan. When one inquires, "Was it necessary?" 
the answer must he that no other plan would have served so well, 
if, indeed, a pro ject of any other nature could have "been employed 
at all. But when one comes to the question, "Was it justifiable?" 
the answer is far more difficult. Certainly we cannot defend or 
condone all the excesses which many members of the Elan committed; 
yet when we picture to ourselves the trying conditions under which 
these men lived, when we realize fully the serious nature of 
their provecation, and when we recall the essentially honest and 
upright character of the society as a whole and the conscientious 
conduct of the great majority of the genuine members, we cannot 
find it in our hearts to censure too severely these occasional 
lapses from moderation. If the offense was great, the provocation 
was fully commensurate. Although we are not ready to declare that 
the end justified the means, we are forced to conclude that "neger 
before was an end so cle-.rly worth fighting for made so clearly 
unattainable by any purely good means." 1 And we are led to wonder 
1. Brown, Lower South in Amer. Hist., £24. 

whether, if an unkind Providence hrd caused ub to reside in the 
South of the Reconstruction days, we, too, would not h' ve been 
members of the Ku Klux Klan. 

What, then, shall he our final verdict concerning the 
character and nature of this highly unique and much -maligned 
organization? Perhaps no one is more competent to "bring in such 
a verdict than Captain J. C. Lester, one of the original founders 
of the order. And many years i fter the final disbandment ne 
penned the following epitaph for the Klnn: 1 

"Thus lived, so died, this strange order. Its birth 
I was an accident; its growth was a comedy; its death a tragedy. 
It owed its existence wholly to the anomalous condition of social 
and civil affairs in the South immediately succeeding the un- 
fortunate contest in which so many brave men in blue and grey 
fell, martyrs to their convictions. There never was, before or 
since, a period of our history when such an order could have 
lived, ilay there never be againl" 

1. Lester and Wilson, KKK, 132. 




Only those references are given which have "been actually 
used in the preparation of this thesis. For the sake of brevity, 
it has been found advisable to abbreviate some of tne references 
when given in the ioot-notes ; and in every such, the 
abbreviated form is iound indented just under the full reierence 
as given in this list. 


Appleton's Annual Cyclopaedia, Vol. IX, pp. 167, 269, £95, 
^ew York, 1870. 

Butler, B. P., The Ku Klux Debates, The Nation, Vol. XII, p. 229, 

New York, April 6, 1871. 
Fleming, W. 1., Documentary history of Reconstruction , two 

volumes, Cleveland, 1907. 

Fleming, Doc. Hist, of Recon. 
Godkin, 3. L. , Problem of the South, The Nation, Vol. XII, p. 192, 

New York, March 23, lb 71. 
Great Debates in American History, Vol. VIII, pp. 162-202, New 

York, 1915. 

Hart, A. B., American History Told by Contemporaries, Vol. IV, 
New York, 1903. 

Hinsdale, B. A., The Works of James A. Garfield, Vol. I, pp. 702- 
731. Boston. 1882. 


Lester, J. C, and Wilson, D. L. f The Ku Klux Klan, Its Origin, 

Growth, and Disbandment, Hew York, 1905. 
Lester and Wilson, KKK. 
Mac Don: Id , W., Select statutes o±* united states history, 1861- 

1898, Lew York, 1909. 

Mac Donald, Select Statutes of u. S, Hist., 1861-1898 
McPherson, Edward, Handbook of Politics for 1872, Washington, 1872, 
McPherson, Edward, Politicrl History of the United States During 

the Period of Reconstruction, Washington, 1875. 
McPherson, Pol, Hist, of u. S. 
IvIcPnerson, Edward, Political Manual for 1866-1867, Washington, 186 7 
Pomercy, J. H., The Force Bill, The n atio n, Vol. XII, pp. 268- 

270, Hew York, April 20, 1871. 
Report of the Joint Select Committee to Inquire Into the condition 

of Affairs in the L<°te Insurrectionary States, Made to the 

Two Houses of Congress February 19, 1872, thirteen volumes, 

Washington, 18 72. 

Ku Kkvx Reports. 
Richardson, J. D., Compilations of the Messages and Papers of 

the Presidents of the United States, Vol. VI, Washington, 


Schurz, Garl, The Reminiscences of Carl Schurz, Vol. Ill, Chap. 

VI, New York, 1907. 
Schurz, Carl, Speeches, Correspondence, Political Papers, Vol. I, 

pp. 279-374, Lew York, 1915, Edited by Frederick Babcock. 
Senate Executive Documents, No. 2, 1 Session, 39 Congress, - 

Washington, 1865. 


Suaner, Charles, The Works of (Jharlea Sumner, Vol. XI, pp. 227- 
283, Boston, 1885. 

Secondary Material 

Brown, W. G. , The Ku Klvot Klsn, Atlantic Monthly, Vol. LXX2TI I , 

pp. 654-644, Bostcn, May, 1901* 
Brown, W, G., The Lower South in American History, Hew York, 1902. 

Brown, Lower South in Amer. Hist. 
Cutler, J. E., Lynch Law, Chap. V, Hew York, 1905. 
Dunning, W. A., History of Reconstruction, Politic?! and Economic, 

American Nation Series, Vol. XXII, Hew York, 1907. 
Dunning, W. A., Essays on the Civil War and Reconstruction, 

Hew York, 1898. 

Encyclopaedia Americana, Article on the Ku Klus Klan, Vol. IX, 

New York and Chicago, 1902. 
Encyclopaedia Brittanica, Article on the Ku Klux Elan, Vol. XV, 

Eleventh Edition, Cambridge, 1911* 
Fleming, W. L., Civil War and Reconstruction in Alabama, Hew York, 


Fleming, Civil War and Recon. in Ala. 
Garner, J. W. , Reconstruction in Mississippi, Hew York, 1901. 

Sarner, Recon. in Miss. 
Grady, H. 7/., The Hew South, Modern Eloquence, Vol. VIII, p. 585, 

Philadelphia, 1901. 
Herbert, H. A., Why the Solid South, Baltimore, 1890. 
Publications of the Historical Society of Trinity College, Durham, 
Horth Carolina. Series III, Part V, Durham, 1899. 


Publicctionc of Trin. Hist. Soc . 
:.cC rthy, C. H. , Lincoln's Plcm of Reconstruction, pp. 211-285, 

New York, 1901. 
Phelps, Albert, Louisiana, Boston, 190b. 

Rhodes, J. F., History of the united States from the Compromise 
of 1850, Vol. VI, New York, 1906. 
Rhodes, hist, of U. S. 
Rose, S. 3. D. , The Ku IQux Elan, or Invisible jSmpire, New 
Orleans, 1914. 

Rose, X. K. K. , or Invisible Empire. 
Sinclair, W. A., Aftermath of Sl:very, Ghap. II, Boston, 1905. 
Tourgee, A. V/., A Fool's fir rand, By One of the Fools, Part II, 
New York, 1902. 

Washington, B. T. , Up From Slavery, pp. 77-92, Hew York, 1901. 
Wilson, D. L. , The Ku Klux Klan, Century MagRzine , Vol. VI, 

pp. 398-410, New York, 1884. 

Wilson, K- K. K. , Cent . Mag . 
Wilson, Woodrow, history of the American People, Vol. V, Chep. I, 

New York, 1902.